ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) _ Billionaire financier Carl Icahn has beaten out Park Place Entertainment Corp. for control of the bankrupt Sands Hotel & Casino.

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Judith Wizmur, in an 80-page opinion issued Friday, favored Icahn's plan to invest $65 million in cash in the struggling casino, which filed for protection under Chapter 11 in January 1998.

``We welcome Carl Icahn to Atlantic City,'' said Eric Browndorf, an attorney for unsecured creditors who have been holding $6.7 million in bills for goods and services rendered to the casino before it filed for bankruptcy.

``It's going to be terrific for everyone, both the existing creditors and all the vendors in Atlantic City,'' Browndorf said.

The decision is subject to approval by the state Casino Control Commission.

Icahn, who owns three Las Vegas casinos, will get 46.3 percent of Sands' new stock and will issue $110 million in new bonds in exchange for the $182.5 million in existing Sands bonds.

Park Place, which owns more than 25 casinos, had proposed spending $40 million on the property in exchange for 57.5 percent of the new stock and giving bondholders $128 million in new bonds.

Icahn could not be reached for comment Friday. His bankruptcy attorney, Edward Weisfelner, did not immediately return a telephone call.

``We're thrilled,'' said Frederick Kraus, executive vice president of the Sands, which favored Icahn's plan, too. ``We think (Icahn's plan) won because the offer was higher and better, and it was enthusiastically supported by the trade creditors.''

The unsecured creditors, who are 1,500 vendors, voted in favor of the Icahn plan.

Park Place officials did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment Friday.