The month just past was a sad one for me in a couple of pretty big ways. The first involves the passing of Dennis Gomes, founder of Gomes Gaming and co-owner of Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, who died unexpectedly in late February at the age of 68 of complications stemming from kidney dialysis.
While I can’t say Dennis and I were friends, we definitely knew each other and developed a relationship of sorts from the times I interviewed him over the years. Dennis was the rare gaming executive who understood the value of the press and publicity, and I could always count on him returning my calls no matter where he was working at the time or what the subject.
I, however, will always equate Dennis with Atlantic City. It was where he earned the title of “Mr. Fix it” from the New York Times for his inspired oversight of Trump Taj Mahal in the early 1990s and where he decided to enter the world of casino ownership with the purchase of Resorts Casino Hotel in 2010. Indeed, I admired Dennis for committing to Atlantic City when just about everyone else advised bailing-out of the community and its beleaguered gaming industry. He was always one of Atlantic City’s biggest boosters, even as gaming revenues dropped quarter after quarter, year after year. Woe unto anyone who doubted the future of his adopted home.
“Las Vegas got hit as bad or worse [by the recession] then Atlantic City but all you hear from analysts is not to worry about Las Vegas, it will come back,” Dennis told me during an interview in 2010. “Why aren’t they saying the same thing about Atlantic City? It’s the typical Wall Street bias against Atlantic City, and since they’re down on the market, so is everyone else.”
In his mind, Atlantic City was always on the verge of a major comeback-if only people could see what he saw. “Atlantic City is a powerful market with tremendous demographics,” he once told me. “The beauty of the surroundings-the ocean and the beaches-attracts people throughout the eastern United States. The low tax rate allowed the creation of a critical mass of dining, gaming, entertainment and retail all in one place. It’s an unbeatable formula that most other gaming jurisdictions can’t duplicate as time has shown.”
Now that Dennis is gone, I’m sure someone else will step up and take over his position as defender of all things Atlantic City. I doubt they will be able to handle the role with as much aplomb.
The other sad event of the past month was the death of Matt Connor, former editor of Indian Gaming Business magazine, at the much too young age of 46 (see In The News, page 12 and The Back Page, page 54). Matt and I were close colleagues over an eight-year period in the 1990s while we both worked at International Gaming & Wagering Business magazine and managed to stay friends despite the effects of time, distance and employment.
I can’t say Matt’s death came as a total shock-he was in the midst of a two-year battle with cancer-but you never knew how dire the disease was with him because he was always so positive, always so sure he was going to ultimately beat it. He believed, and he made you believe as well.
There are two things I will always remember about Matt. He was a gifted writer, with a personal style that was distinctive and seemingly effortless. You always knew when you were reading a Matt Connor article, no matter what industry he was reporting on or which magazine he was working for at the time. Matt was also one of the funniest people I ever knew and so enjoyed every aspect of life. When I look back on it, it’s a miracle we got any work done at all with all the stories, jokes, riffs, and observations constantly flying around. He was an absolute joy to share an office with, and there are not many people you can say that about.
Rest in peace, brother.