With a plea that allegations of past sins be laid to rest forever, Resorts International today ended its 30-day public battle to keep control of the most lucrative casino in the world -- its 9-month-old Atlantic City operation.
Gamblers in the casino pushed their chips across the green felt without noticeable concern for the gambling house's future, but the gamblers on Wall Street made it clear that they think Resorts is a winner.
On a wave of expectation that the company will be granted the permanent license it needs to keep its casino here, Resorts' stock shot up. Resorts A closed up 7 at 44 5/8, and Resorts B rose 16 1/4 to 70.
Optimism about Resorts' future was raised by the failure of New Jersey officials to produce any damaging surprises during the long hearings.
The verdict on Resorts may set a pattern for the casino applicants waiting their turn to qualify for a share of what they hungrily describe as a potential $5 billion annual market.
Resorts is winning money in Atlantic City's only casino at an annual rate of about $200 million. Several other applicants, such as Bally Manufacturing, Penthouse and Caesar's World, have gambling pasts that make them vulnerable to charges similar to those made against Resorts.
Chairman Joseph Lordi of the fivemember New Jersey Casino Control Commission, which holds Resorts' future in its hands. said the commissioners will study the 8,000-page hearing transcript and close to 500 exhibits for three days before meeting Monday to consider their decision.
Resorts must win the votes of four commissioners to get its permanent license.
If Resorts is turned down, the commission will appoint a conservator to run the casino until it can be sold. If no decision is reached by midnight Monday, when the temporary license under which Resorts has been operating expires, the casino will shut down and many of Resorts' 3,600 employes will be out of work until a decision is reached.
Resorts' casino winnings before taxes and expenses have averaged more than $550,000 daily since it opened last May 26.
Resorts' happy days in this seedy boardwalk and salt-water-taffy town were jeopardized Dec. 4, when New Jersey Attorney General John Degnan issued a report recommending that the commission refuse Resorts its license.
A lengthy investigation of Resorts' gambling operations here and in the Bahamas detailed 17 reasons for this negative recommendation, most of them dealing with Bahamian activity in the 1960s.
Raymond Brown, Resorts' attorney, called these allegations "ghosts of the past." He said that Resorts' alleged ties to underworld figures long ago had led to a "brooding and terrible inference that Resorts' money is unclean and improper." He asked that this be laid to rest forever by the commission's decision.
Underworld financier Meyer Lansky dominated these long hearings, Brown said, even though there was no credible evidence of a Lansky tie to Resorts.
New Jersey authorities' case against Resorts' Bahamian activities lacked any smoking gun, but Assistant Attorney General Michael Brown argued that New Jersey's casino law requires higher standards from casino applicants than from any other seekers of privilege in the state.
Any casino applicant must establish "good character," Brown said, "Reputation is earned and developed as a result of years of honest business practices." and cannot be established in order to meet New Jersey requirements.
The assistant attorney general bore down on Resorts' president, I. G. Davis, who admitted during the hearings that he had controlled a fund used for gifts in the Bahamas. Michael Brown called it "a slush fund," and questioned whether Davis should be allowed to hold high office in a New Jersey gaming company.
The Casino Control Commission can put conditions on any license it grants. For example, it could set the condition that one or more Resorts officers be severed from the company.
Not all the objections to Resorts involve the Bahamas. Seymour Alter, a longtime Resorts official, was suspended by the company seven days after the New Jersey report said he had admitted attempting to bribe a New York judge and supplying prostitutes to Bahamian officials on a trip to Las Vegas.
Alter did not testify at the hearings, and Resorts' attorneys assured the commission that Alter would not be reinstated by the company without the commission's approval.
The state also attacked the refusal of two banks long associated with Resorts to cooperate fully with the investigation, and raised questions about David Probinsky, a man Resorts has paid large sums for doing little and who now has a contract that will pay him an extra $1 million if Resorts gets its New Jersey license. The state charged that Probinsky was being paid to keep him from revealing damaging information about the company.
Atlantic City has been solidly behind Resorts from the beginning. Its business and political leaders, who hope gambling will revive the town, have deplored the state's opposition to the company. They also have pushed for a decision before the Monday midnight deadline so that not a minute of gambling time will be lost.