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ATLANTIC CITY, NJ-Park Place Entertainment wants to create the largest casino/hotel property in this gaming mecca, and the largest hotel in New Jersey, and it won’t require turning a single shovel. The casino/hotel operator has filed an application with the Casino Control Commission to merge its adjoining Bally’s and the Claridge into one big property. Park Place bought the smaller Claridge out of bankruptcy for $65 million a year and a half ago, and last summer opened a $25 million skywalk to physically connect the two properties.

The result would be the largest casino/hotel property in this shore resort–almost 6,100 slot machine and 219 gaming tables in 222,300 sf and more than 1,753 guest rooms. The latter number would top Harrah’s 1,630 rooms. The combined properties would also have 21 restaurants, 4,000 parking space, two pools and a 550-seat theater.

But if the application is approved, Bally’s would hold the crown as the biggest for long – the $ 1 billion Borgata and its 2,010 rooms loom on the horizon with a summer of 2003 grand opening slated.

“We’ve added more than 500 rooms and a fully operational hotel-casino to Bally’s Atlantic city, for a fraction of the cost and time that it would have taken to build a new property,” Wally Barr, COO of Park Place Entertainment explained in a prepared statement. “Joining these two center boardwalk properties, we are completing the final phase of the strategic plan that we put in place when we acquired the Claridge.”

The merger would reduce the number of casino-hotels here to 11, at least until the Borgata is ready to cut the ribbon. It would also reduce Park Place’s separate properties here to three (the other two are Caesars and the Hilton).

The Claridge is one of this city’s historic hotel properties, a distinguished brick structure that dates back to 1930. Its name would live on as the Claridge Tower of Bally’s Atlantic City. The property’s two other hotel wings are the modernistic Bally’s Tower and the Dennis Tower, a 400-room Victorian hotel that Park Place spent almost $25 million to restore in 1999.

As part of the merger, Park Place would give up the Claridge’s gaming license. Park Place officials say the merger will cut operating costs regulatory fees and taxes, and that they do not intend to cut any jobs.

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