by Bryan Darrow, Lisa Grimaldi, Tom Isler, Brendan M. Lynch and Jonathan Vatner | June 01, 2007

Rendering of new Mohegan Sun casino


On the horizon: A new casino
for Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun,
part of the Project Horizon expansion

If there’s such a thing as a sure bet in the gaming industry, investors seem to believe it’s the profitability of combining upscale hotels and resorts with casinos.

“There is an unusual flow of capital into the gaming industry globally today,” says Eugene Christiansen, CEO of New York City-based Christiansen Capital Advisors LLC. Indeed, it’s an “unusual flow” to the tune of $50 billion of development in Las Vegas and Macau alone.

Following is a roundup of development news at different gaming destinations around the world as tracked by M&C’s editors and contributors. Most of these projects have been developed to cater to meeting groups.

Atlantic City

Long perceived as mostly geared toward vacationers, Atlantic City is making great strides at welcoming meeting planners. Six months ago, Trump Entertainment Resorts hired Gregg Caren away from convention facility manager SMG with the goal of bringing in more group business, which traditionally has been “relegated to nonsummer, midweek” dates, Caren says. Now, however, “we’ve pretty much kicked the door open to summer and weekend, much like Vegas,” he adds.

Trump Taj Mahal

Towering presence:
The Trump Taj Mahal is
adding an 800-room tower
to its Atlantic City property,
scheduled to open next fall.

Partly to make it more enticing for planners to bring in business, the three Trump properties (Taj Mahal, Marina, Plaza) are in the midst of a combined three-year, $500 million renovation and expansion. Half of that is funding an 800-room tower at the Trump Taj Mahal, to open in fall 2008.

The Borgata

The Puck stops here:
The Borgata in Atlantic City
has added a number of
new restaurants, including this
from Wolfgang Puck, and plans
to open an 800-room tower with
18,000 square feet of
meeting space next year.

The Borgata, the hotel that more than any other has defined the future of Atlantic City, completed last year an expansion of its amenities, adding more space to the casino, retail and dining areas. Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay and Michael Mina all opened restaurants there. Opening early next year will be The Water Club at Borgata, a $400 million, 800-room tower with 18,000 square feet of meeting space along with a 36,000-square-foot spa.

Not wanting to be left behind, Harrah’s Atlantic City is adding a tower of its own, with 964 rooms, bringing the total to 2,600. The tower opens in mid-2008; in the meantime, opening this year at Harrah’s will be a Red Door Spa with 24 treatment rooms.

As if all those towers weren’t enough, three new casinos are on the drawing boards. To begin with, Atlantic City-based freshman gaming company Revel Entertainment is designing one that will be financed by Morgan Stanley, to go up next to the Showboat casino (timeline still to come). Second, the area just south of the Atlantic City Hilton, itself poised for a major expansion, has been purchased by Wallace Barr, former CEO of Caesars Entertainment, and Curtis Bashaw, former executive director of the New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.

The third project is a redevelopment of the Sands Casino, which is now closed. Pinnacle Entertainment will demolish the building and rebuild it from scratch, a process that will take at least four or five years. Rumor has it that Steve Wynn is considering building a casino in Atlantic City as well.

The 804-room Atlantic City Hilton is charting a $1 billion expansion. A spokesperson for the hotel declined to offer details of the project because, at press time, the hotel’s owner, Los Angeles-based Colony Capital, had not yet approved the plans. According to local news reports, initial plans outline the addition of a 1,000-room tower and a 3,500-seat meeting room, and the doubling of the casino floor to 120,000 square feet.

The casinos, along with the Development Authority, are funding an express New Jersey Transit train between New York City and Atlantic City, which will make the trip in about two and a half hours. The service is slated to begin later this year.

Lastly, this gaming mecca is coming into its own as a major shopping destination. Atlantic City Outlets, The Walk, has proved so popular that The Cordish Company is expanding the outdoor outlet mall by five blocks; the first of about 40 stores opened earlier this year. Also, The Pier Shops at Caesars, an impressive collection of luxury boutiques built on the old Ocean One/Million Dollar Pier, debuted last year. Included are a number of noteworthy restaurants by Philadelphia celebrity restaurateur Stephen Starr. -- JONATHAN VATNER