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ATLANTIC CITY-The Dennis Hotel is one of the few remaining pre-casino hostelries along this city’s boardwalk, but for some three decades it was not visible from the boardwalk and had largely been forgotten. Its identity was also obscured by the fact that its 400 rooms had been folded into Bally’s Atlantic City as one of the guestroom wings of that 1,800-key casino hotel property.

But that’s changed, thanks to a $60 million investment by Bally’s parent, Harrah’s Entertainment. Part of that investment went to demolishing a retail strip that blocked the hotel from the boardwalk, and replacing it with a grassy courtyard.

“It was the right thing to do, to bring the center boardwalk together [with the hotel],” says a Bally’s spokesman, in a statement. “It says a lot about the company in terms of the investment [Harrah's] was willing to make, back into our product in the Atlantic City market.”

Much of that $60 million, in fact, was spent taking the half-acre site occupied by the retail strip back into the Bally’s fold. Altogether, more than $38 million was spent to buy the property, occupied by souvenir shops, a buffet, a fortuneteller and the like, from the locally based Schiff family, and to demolish the retail building. The remainder was spent on restoring the Dennis French chateau-style façade and renovate its guest rooms, according to Bally’s officials.

The original Dennis Hotel was built in the 1860s and the current building, constructed in the early 1920′s, mimics the original’s architectural style. The building was almost demolished in the late 1970s when Bally’s was set to build the casino hotel originally called Bally’s Park Place. But the old hotel survived as a cost-saving measure to provide ample hotel rooms for the new casino.

In an unrelated casino hotel matter, Pinnacle Entertainment chairman Dan Lee has told casino regulators here that his company’s proposed $2 billion resort on the site of the old Sands Casino Hotel will get built. Pinnacle officials have, in the past few months, cast some uncertainty to that happening, citing global credit market conditions, even as the design process was moving ahead.

“We’re in this thing for $400 million,” Lee told Casino Control Commission members at a public meeting. “We’re not just going to sit on it. Something needs to be developed here.”

That $400 million to date has gone for land acquisition, design work and legal and other expenses, according to Lee.

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