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ATLANTIC CITY-When the Tropicana Casino Resort lost its casino license last month, the word was that it would likely be sold “within weeks.” That prophesy may be about to come true for a property that has to have new ownership if it’s going to get its casino license back.

According to published reports, the Los Angeles-based Colony Capital and partner Nicholas Ribis, vice chairman of Resorts International Inc., have teamed to offer $850 million to buy the 2,100-room hotel, which comes with a 150,000-sf casino and a mall-like retail and entertainment component. According to reports, Colony has sent a letter to Gary Stein, a former New Jersey Supreme Court justice appointed by the Casino Control Commission as trustee for the troubled property, offering that amount, and stating that it is prepared to deposit $50 million for a 30-day exclusivity to do due diligence.

A source confirms the letter and its content, but declined further comment. Officials of Colony Capital were not available for comment. The $850-million offer is in the ballpark of the $800 million to $1 billion industry analysts expected the sprawling property to command.

Current Trop owner Columbia Sussex was denied casino relicensing last month, with state casino control commissioners alleging mismanagement of the property. The Crestview Hills, KY-based company had acquired it in 2006 as part of its larger acquisition of Aztar Corp. Under state law, once denied a license, the property would have to be sold for the casino to continue to operate.

Colony Capital is no stranger to this gaming resort city–it already owns both Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort and Resorts Atlantic City. The company was also among those outbid two years ago by Columbia Sussex when the Trop and the larger Aztar Corp. portfolio were on the market.

And while there is apparently at least one firm bid now on the table, the process likely isn’t over. A number of other suitors have emerged publicly, among them Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun, a private group led by Cape May-based developer Curtis Bashaw and former Caesar’s executive Wallace Barr, Pinnacle Entertainment, Penn National Gaming, Ameristar Casinos and Baltimore-based developer Cordish Co.

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