ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Moving quickly on a project designed to be up and running by Memorial Day, the state Department of Environmental Protection said Tuesday it has granted a crucial permit for a $35 million expansion of Resorts Casino Hotel.
The Coastal Areas Facilities Review Act permit was needed for the planned Margaritaville restaurant, bar and entertainment complex to be built across the boardwalk from New Jersey's oldest casino. The permit, which was signed on Sept. 4, is needed for any substantial construction project along the shoreline.
The project still needs other approvals, but the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, which will run Resorts' day-to-day operations under an agreement soon to be approved by New Jersey casino regulators, hopes to have the complex up and running by Memorial Day weekend.
The plans call for construction of a 16,000-square foot restaurant called Margaritaville Landshark Bar & Grill on a rebuilt Steeplechase Pier. As is the case with other Margaritaville properties owned by entertainer Jimmy Buffett, plans call for island-themed landscaping including palm trees, more than a dozen cabanas, two beach volleyball courts, a bocce ball court, two horseshoe pits and a fire pit. An adjacent surf shop also is planned.
"We are grateful to the DEP for their quick attention to the Margaritaville project at Resorts Casino Hotel and are looking forward to beginning construction in the next few weeks," casino spokeswoman Courtney Birmingham said. "The Margaritaville project is easily one of the largest initiatives in Atlantic City in recent years, and we are looking forward to being a pivotal piece of the puzzle as Atlantic City continues to grow as a resort destination."
The idea is to bring new excitement (and new customers with their new money) to a casino that has struggled since nearly having to close two years ago. The alliance with the Mohegans and their well-established casinos in Connecticut and Pennsylvania is expected to give a big boost to Resorts, which was the first casino in the United States to open outside Nevada. It is due to be considered by the state Casino Control Commission on Friday.
It became necessary following the sudden death of Resorts co-owner Dennis Gomes in February. A veteran of the casino industry whose exploits as a crime-busting regulator in Nevada were chronicled in movie "Casino," Gomes had been working to turn Resorts around from years of losses under previous ownership to bigger, newer competitors in Atlantic City and surrounding states.
Following Gomes' death, Resorts owner Morris Bailey began discussing a marketing alliance with the Mohegans, but talks progressed quickly into a deal to have the tribe's management arm, Mohegan Gaming Advisors, provide the experience and know-how that was missing without Gomes at the helm.
Under terms of the permit, any beach or dune areas temporarily affected by construction activities must be restored to pre-construction conditions immediately after completion of the project.
The project is expected to create 250 construction jobs and an additional 162 permanent jobs.
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC