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Trump Plaza sale could pave way for rebound, observer says

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With the Trump Plaza slated to be sold to a California investment group for a bargain price, backers of the Boardwalk property may be hoping it follows the path of its former sister property, the Trump Marina.

The casino, which was sold and rebranded as the Golden Nugget in 2011, has taken positive steps since changing hands, said Israel Posner, a professor at Richard Stockton College, in Galloway. With the gaming revenue in Atlantic City in freefall, and with the resort trying to reinvent itself, he said “clearly they’re one of the bright spots in terms of the way it looks, compared to the way it looked prior to Tilman Fertitta’s ownership.”

“I think they’re still developing” the Golden Nugget, said Posner, executive director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at the college’s business school. “Clearly their performance has improved, but my guess is that they still have a way to go in terms of where they want to be in this market, given the amount of investment that they put in.”

Published reports Thursday said Trump Plaza had been sold to the Meruelo Group of Downey, Calif., for $20 million. Executives with the firm said they plan to rename and invest in the former Donald Trump flagship casino, though the sale is still pending approval by state regulators.

While the level of improvements is far from clear, and the sale price well below the property’s original value and building costs, Posner said “when you’re down in (that) range, that brings a lot of buyers out of the woodwork.” He pointed to the roughly $150 million investment made at the Golden Nugget, new investments under way at Resorts Casino Hotel and potential investments at the Atlantic Club, which is slated to be sold to one of the world’s largest online poker companies.

“Then you have the potential for further investment,” Posner said. “That’s really the good news, that if you can buy at these kinds of prices, it gives you the opportunity to put in money and refurbish. You wouldn’t see it otherwise.”

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Joshua Burd

Joshua Burd

Josh Burd covers real estate, economic development and sports and entertainment. Before joining NJBIZ in 2011, he spent four years as a metro reporter in Central Jersey. His email is joshb@njbiz.com and he is @JoshBurdNJ on Twitter.

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