Penn National scraps Atlantic City casino plans

Atlantic City, New Jersey (AP) – Penn National Gaming on Thursday became the latest company to scrap plans to build a lavish new casino in Atlantic City.

The Wyomissing, Pa., firm announced in a statement accompanying its fourth-quarter earnings that it won’t exercise its option to build a new casino on Route 30 in an area far away from the existing 11 casinos. The company’s chairman and CEO, Peter M. Carlino, blamed market conditions.

Penn National’s casino would have been the first not on the Boardwalk, where eight casinos are located, or the Marina District, where three others are located. The company’s 23-acre site, about a mile away from the other casinos, is in an area best known for sewage smells and traffic jams, and had drawn stiff opposition from nearby residents.

Penn National thus joined MGM Mirage, Pinnacle Entertainment and developer Curtis Bashaw among those who announced grand plans to expand Atlantic City’s casino empire, only to shelve or abandon them when the economy collapsed.

Company officials did not immediately return calls seeking comment, and it could not immediately be determined whether Penn National remains interested in building or buying a casino elsewhere in Atlantic City.

The company caused a commotion here 13 months ago when it tried to take control of development of the former Bader Field airport property by offering USD 800 million for the land, and USD 100 million to the cash-starved Atlantic City government in return for being able to avoid a lengthy bidding process for the site.

The 150-acre tract is widely considered to be one of the most desirable development sites along the entire East Coast, and could support at least three new casinos.

The city is seeking bids from developers interested in the site; it extended its offering period until June when no one bid on it earlier this year.