U.S. Markets closed

Pinnacle Entertainment selling casino site in AC

Wayne Parry, Associated Press

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) -- Pinnacle Entertainment is selling the land where it once planned to build a $2 billion casino in Atlantic City.

In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Las Vegas casino company said it has reached a deal to sell its site to a buyer it did not identify, for $30.6 million.

"We own approximately 19 contiguous acres in the heart of Atlantic City, with extensive frontage along The Boardwalk, Pacific Avenue and Brighton Park," the company wrote in its filing. "During the fourth quarter of 2012, we entered into a definitive agreement to sell our land holdings in Atlantic City for total consideration of approximately $30.6 million, subject to a financing contingency. The transaction is expected to close by the end of the first quarter of 2013."

The company did not immediately respond to a request for additional comment.

The sale would mark the end of an expensive, failed gamble for the company in New Jersey.

Pinnacle bought the former Sands Casino Hotel in 2006 for $270 million. It imploded the Sands in 2007, and made plans for a new casino with a beach house theme.

But those plans never advanced beyond the drawing board as the economy crashed and Atlantic City's gambling revenue began a six-plus year slump from which it still has not recovered.

In the first quarter of 2010, Pinnacle decided to sell its Atlantic City land.

"Since that time, we actively marketed the Atlantic City operations," the company wrote in its filing. "However, events and circumstances beyond our control extended the period to complete the sale of these operations beyond one year.

Pinnacle settled a property tax appeal with Atlantic City in Dec. 2011, and won a refund of $8.2 million.

The sharply reduced sale price of its land — which is still considered to be prime, Boardwalk-fronting property even in a struggling casino market — is consistent with the plunging sale price of casinos themselves. In recent years, distressed Atlantic City casinos have been selling for 20 or even 10 percent of their original purchase price.

Resorts Casino Hotel, the Tropicana Casino and Resort, Trump Marina (which is now the Golden Nugget Atlantic City), and Trump Plaza have all sold for pennies on the dollar compared to their original construction or acquisition prices.

And the pending sale of the Atlantic Club to the parent company of the PokerStars website is expected to set a record low price for the sale of an Atlantic City casino; the sale price has not yet been made public.


Wayne Parry can be reached at https://twitter.com/WayneParryAC