ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) _ Penthouse magazine publisher Bob Guccione may buy a $12 million Boardwalk tract where a casino hotel was once proposed, a state appeals court has ruled.

The decision Thursday was the latest ruling in nine years of protracted litigation over the site where the Mayflower Hotel once stood.

Guccione became embroiled in a lawsuit with Greta and Joseph Shamy, who were under contract to buy the hotel in 1977, according to court papers.

The Shamys, of Galloway Township, and Guccione had agreed to form a corporation to buy the property and develop a new casino hotel. But the Shamys sued for breach of contract in 1979 following a business dispute.

Seven years later, after numerous court hearings, a Superior Court judge ordered the property placed in receivership and sold to a competitive bidder.

Guccione's attorney, Henry N. Luter of Morristown, said Guccione and an investment group put together by the Shamys made separate offers.

The court-appointed receiver, Arthur M. Greenbaum, recommended that the property be sold to Guccione for $12 million, the amount he had already invested in the property, according to court papers. The Shamys appealed that recommendation.

But in a decision released Thursday, Judges Herman D. Michels and John D. Keefe of the Appellate Division of Superior Court affirmed the receiver's recommendation.