ATLANTIC CITY - The scene at Resorts Casino Hotel Friday was circus-like, with the unveiling of its Roaring Twenties theme taking the center ring, so to speak, just in time for the busy Memorial Day weekend.
Seven vintage cars from the 1920s were parked on the Boardwalk outside the casino, and cocktail waitresses modeled their new black "flapper" dresses. There was even a high-wire act involving trapeze artists and a motorcycle.
But as it turns out, Resorts also plans to bring the real circus to the Shore. New owner Dennis Gomes announced Friday to a Boardwalk audience of a few hundred spectators that a 2,000-seat pavilion would be built to host at least three circuses per day this summer.
"This is what Atlantic City is about. We're bringing it all back," Gomes said on a raised stage that also featured comedian Joe Piscopo and Mayor Lorenzo Langford.
Bringing in the circus will provide another attraction as Atlantic City digs in to compete head-to-head with Pennsylvania's casinos, which have bled this town's gaming revenues, customers and workforce over the last four years.
Friday's events were part of Resorts' unveiling of its new look and remodeled hotel rooms in the Ocean Tower. In December, gaming-industry veteran Gomes partnered with Morris Bailey of JEMB Realty Corp., of New York, to purchase Atlantic City's first casino from its lenders for $31 million. Resorts opened on May 26, 1978, at North Carolina Avenue and the Boardwalk.
The new flapper dresses were designed by Gomes, who previously held senior executive positions at Tropicana and Trump Taj Mahal. "I'm proud of them," he said as cocktail waitresses paraded onstage.
Lorraine Bridda, 62, of Flushing, N.Y., watched the festivities and said they were what Atlantic City and Resorts needed "to bring the luster back."
"I think it's great. It needed something, and it's going to bring it back to where it originated," Bridda said, referring to Resorts' inaugural-casino distinction.
With a 99,030-square-foot gaming floor, Resorts is the fourth-smallest casino here. Only the Atlantic City Hilton (75,416 square feet); the former Trump Marina, now Golden Nugget (78,535), and Trump Plaza (86,923) are smaller.
"Size is not always good," Gomes said in an interview in late January after taking over Resorts. He purchased the property from RAC Atlantic City Holding L.L.C., which obtained the title after the former owners defaulted on the mortgage.
"Sometimes, with the bigger casinos," he said, "it's a little tougher because there is so much more overhead and so much more space to clean. . . ."
"We want people to know that we're the value play for them," Gomes said. "You can get the most for your money here and still be in elegant, beautiful surroundings."