Pinnacle: Atlantic City casino plans now a ‚dream‘

Atlantic City, New Jersey – Pinnacle Entertainment says building the USD 2 billion casino-hotel it had envisioned for the Atlantic City Boardwalk is just not possible right now.

Company chairman Dan Lee said Friday the beach house-themed casino on land where the Sands Casino Hotel once stood is just a „dream“ at this point. Whether that dream becomes reality is looking more uncertain than ever.

The Las Vegas-based company put the project on indefinite hold last fall. It says it will either wait until the economy improves, or will sell the land if someone makes a decent offer.

„To build what we had hoped to build in Atlantic City takes an era of dreaming,“ he said on a conference call to discuss fourth-quarter earnings. „It takes an era where greed is good, we should all have a good time.

„We seem to be transported to Scandinavia: We have to hide our wealth, drive modest cars, conspicuous consumption is out,“ he said. „We live in an era where it’s just not possible to build what we had anticipated in Atlantic City. Someday, hopefully it’s a better world, or somebody shows up and offers us a better deal.“

And even that looks iffy. Lee said the economic crisis has made it difficult if not impossible to accurately determine the value of land Pinnacle owns on and near the Boardwalk.
„If we had an auction on that land, I’m not sure anybody would show up,“ he said. „The city held an auction for Bader Field, and nobody bid.“

The city has been seeking developers to build as many as three casinos on the former 150-acre airport property along the southern entrance to Atlantic City. The site is best known for coining the term „airport,“ a description first applied to Bader Field when a local reporter used the word in a 1919 article.

Lee also reiterated the company’s stance that allowing casino development at the Bader Field site would cause Pinnacle to scrap its Atlantic City plans.

„We thought that (casinos development at) Bader Field was a deal-stopper,“ Lee said. „We couldn’t have been more straightforward about that. One or more casinos at Bader Field would cut off traffic to the Boardwalk.

„As long as they’re mucking around with Bader Field, you’d be insane to build on the Boardwalk,“ Lee said.

The city has extended the deadline for developers to bid on Bader Field through June. The site is widely considered to be one of the most desirable development sites along the entire East Coast; Pinnacle had considered making an offer for the land in 2007 but backed off when the economy soured.

Pinnacle bought and demolished the Sands in 2007 but has been unable to start construction there. It owns casinos in Nevada, Louisiana, Indiana, Missouri and Argentina.

The company is one of three whose casino plans in Atlantic City have been derailed by the nationwide recession.