He may have spent the latter part of his career in Atlantic City, but Dennis Gomes will always be remembered as a true “only-in-Las Vegas”-type character.
Gomes, the 68-year-old co-owner of Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, died overnight Thursday of complications from kidney dialysis, his son and casino executive Aaron Gomes told The Associated Press.
While tributes poured in from New Jersey casino executives, Gomes was remembered in Las Vegas as an accomplished casino executive and as a gaming regulator whose crackdown on mob skimming operations was immortalized in the movie “Casino.”
Newspaper and magazine clippings dating to the 1970s tell the story of how, with his UNLV accounting and University of Washington masters in finance degrees, he was recruited from the business world to be an agent and division chief at the state Gaming Control Board.
It was in that role that he and his team raided mob-controlled Las Vegas casinos, including the Stardust, to uncover cash-counting scams.
His official biography says he was “one of the principal architects of Nevada Gov. Mike O’Callaghan’s plan to eradicate organized crime from its strong presence in Nevada gaming.”
He later was appointed a top investigator for the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement and led the licensing investigation of Atlantic City’s Resorts International, the first casino in that state.
Leaving the government side of the industry, Gomes ran numerous gaming properties in Las Vegas before permanently leaving for Atlantic City.
Hector Mon, president of Tropicana Las Vegas from 1999 to 2004 and who worked with Gomes there, recalled there were two sides to Gomes.
“Dennis knew the financial side of the business and he had the law enforcement background, so he knew when something wasn’t quite right,” Mon said. “But day to day, he was focused on people and marketing and people loved to work for him.”
Mon recalled that years before going to work for the owners of the Tropicanas in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, Gomes had met his wife-to-be, Barbara, at the Tropicana Las Vegas, where she was a dancer in the now-closed Folies Bergere show.
In true only-in-Las Vegas style, he met her while he was investigating suspected gangster Joseph Agosto, producer of the show at the time.
Gomes’ career in Las Vegas included stints managing the New Frontier, Dunes, Silver City, Silver Nugget, Flamingo, Las Vegas Hilton, Aladdin and the Golden Nugget.
Labeled “Mr. Fix-It” by the New York Times, in 1991 Gomes took over management of Donald Trump’s Taj Mahal hotel-casino in Atlantic City.
In 1995, he took over as president of resort operations at Aztar Corp., running the Tropicanas in Atlantic City and Las Vegas. In 2002, he was named president of the Casino Association of New Jersey.
He left Aztar in a corporate shakeup in 2005 and in 2010, with a partner, bought the Resorts property in Atlantic City.
In a 2001 story in the Star-Ledger newspaper in Newark, N.J., it was noted Gomes was a marketing genius and was believed to be the most unconventional executive in the industry with promotions like humans playing tick-tack-toe against chickens.
“I tell my employees, ‘Don’t put yourself in a box,’” he told the newspaper. “Everyone has the ability to be creative.”
Back in Las Vegas, Gomes was remembered Friday by MGM Resorts International executive Alan Feldman, who remembers Gomes from his Golden Nugget Las Vegas days.
“Honestly, I’m heartbroken by the news. Dennis was one of the most affable, friendly and kind people ever to sit in an executive office,” Feldman said. “He had a ready and easy laugh and was a pure joy to work with. I’ve missed him ever since he left Las Vegas and am thinking of Barbara and his family during this difficult time.”