Wednesday, June 25, 1997 | 10:40 a.m.
The 728-room casino hotel, located next to Harrah's Casino Hotel in the city's marina district, will be known as Trump Marina beginning Friday.
New carpeting, signs and restaurant names reflecting the nautical theme have already been installed and a pair of rock concerts are planned at a 3,800-seat dockside theater this weekend to show off the improvements.
The name's a natural: The casino overlooks the Frank S. Farley State Marina.
"It's more than a retheming. It's changing the business environment and the customer base of the property," said Nicholas Ribis, president and chief executive officer of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Inc.
Last year, the casino's win dropped 10 percent to $251.7 million, the steepest decrease of any of the city's 12 casino hotels. Trump blamed bad luck at the tables, saying: "Everyone who played here won, except the Castle."
But the problems ran deeper than that. Trump tried unsuccessfully to lure a partner to finance a more dramatic makeover, first negotiating with Hard Rock International and then Los Angeles-based real estate giant Colony Capital Inc.
No deal was struck, however, and Trump decided to forge ahead on his own.
The casino has enjoyed a more profitable 1997. Through the first five months of the year, revenues were up 6 percent, compared to the 4.1 percent industry average.
"We've wanted this concept for a long time," said Trump, who unveiled the improvements Wednesday at a news conference. He said he never liked the Trump's Castle theme.
Still, spending $5 million may not buy much in the way of new business. Wall Street analysts are skeptical about whether the theme change will help.
"The dollar amount is tiny for the gaming industry," said Joseph Coccimiglio, senior gaming and lodging analyst for Prudential Securities.
Said Rodman & Renshaw analyst Danny Davila: "I don't know that the changing of the theme will make a meaningful difference."
One analyst said the property suffers for being away from the Boardwalk.
"They've got a location problem," said Ladenburg, Thalman & Co. analyst Andrew Zarnett.
"There's nothing like having a lot of rooms and having people able to walk back and forth to do what they want. With the (Bally's Park Place) Wild, Wild West casino opening this summer, the action's going to be in front of Bally's and Caesars and his other property," he said, referring to Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino.
Zarnett said Trump Marina's best hope is the development of vacant tracts nearby by Mirage Resorts Inc. and other Las Vegas casino companies.
Ironically, Trump opposes the $330 million highway tunnel being sought by Mirage as a condition of its return to New Jersey.
"The marina is a boom town, with or without the tunnel," he said.