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Golden Nugget gets okay for Atlantic City

By LOUIS TOSCANO

LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J. -- The state Casino Control Commission Wednesday granted a gaming license to Golden Nugget, Inc., for its Atlantic City casino, and approved a casino employee permit for Stephen Wynn, the firm's president.

In a 4-0 vote, the commission approved the issuance of New Jersey's fourth plenary license to Golden Nugget. Resorts International, Bally's Park Place and Caesars Boardwalk Regency also have won licenses, which must be renewed yearly.

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The Golden Nugget permit application marked the first time state gaming officials did not formally object to the licensing of an Atlantic City casino operator. But officials did ask the commission to examine several 'areas of concern' about the company and Wynn, who is also the firm's board chairman.

After a lengthy investigation, the state Division of Gaming Enforcement last summer asked the commission to examine allegations that Wynn had used cocaine and charges Wynn offered certain employees questionable stock option deals.

During eight days of hearings last month, however, Wynn denied ever using cocaine and defended the stock option transactions, and division officials urged the commission to grant the licenses at the conclusion of the hearings.

The 504-room, $160 million Golden Nugget opened Dec. 12, 1980, on a temporary license, granted last November after Wynn agreed to step down from his posts with the firm's New Jersey subsidiary while the division's probe continued.

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The Golden Nugget has been the most profitable casino-hotel in Atlantic City. The company reported earnings of $17.7 million in the first six months of 1981 -- more than the other seven operating casinos combined -- and is expected to report additional profits of $17 million to $19 million for the third quarter.

The company's strong showing, which is attributed by some industry analysts to better organization, also has fueled speculation Golden Nugget Inc., which also operates a Las Vegas casino, intends to expand its New Jersey operations.

State law permits casino operators with permanent licenses to own up to three hotel-casinos, but company officials have denied reports the firm plans to buy the Boardwalk Regency and take over the stalled Ritz casino project.

Clifford and Stuart Perlman, the chairman and vice chairman of Caesars World Inc., are challenging a state order forcing them to sever ties with the company because of their alleged links to organized crime figures. Industry sources believe the Perlmans will sell the casino, rather than leave the firm, if their appeal of the state's decision is rejected.

Partners in the Ritz, which has remained open as a hotel, have been unable to secure financing to build a casino, and one partner recently hinted the sale of the property is under serious consideration.

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But Wynn reportedly is waiting for more changes in New Jersey's strict gaming regulations before deciding whether to open another Atlantic City casino.

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