Really expensive and worryingly empty. That’s what we thought about Atlantic City’s Revel Casino Hotel when we visited in February 2014. It was not a good combination.
Now, the megacasino has filed for bankruptcy, the second time it has done so in the past two years.
Revel is reportedly telling employees it will shut down this summer if it doesn’t find a buyer.
The complex cost $US2.6 billion to build, and is New Jersey’s second-tallest building. It opened in April 2012, but 11 months later was forced to file for bankruptcy.
We photographed the beautiful interior of the casino while reflecting on how it and the rest of Atlantic City fell on hard times.
Pulling into the Revel Casino in Atlantic City, there is a lot of free parking, even for a Saturday afternoon in February.
The casino's troubles were obvious from early on, such as when Morgan Stanley wrote down a $US932 million loss on the project in 2010, well before it opened in 2012.
The Revel lost more than $US70 million during its first two fiscal quarters of 2012 and filed for bankruptcy in February 2013. Now, just over a year later, it has filed for bankruptcy once again.
Financial issues aside, Revel has suffered its share of unexpected safety incidents, as well. Lightning strikes and work site accidents killed one worker and injured several more during construction.
And on September 12, 2012 a customer was severely injured when he fell from an escalator to the floor 40 feet below.
Just outside the main floor of the casino, a magnificent view awaits past a massive designer chandelier.
But good design can only do so much to counteract bigger problems in the Atlantic City hospitality sector (which represents 43% of local jobs.
The local industry is struggling to compete with newly authorised casinos in Maryland, Delaware, New York, Maine, and Massachusetts. Pennsylvania has now surpassed New Jersey as the second-largest gaming state in the country.
In addition, up to three New York City area casinos will be opening within the next seven years. CNBC points out that NYC is Atlantic City's largest feeder market.
Over the last 10 years, as gaming has opened up in neighbouring states, New Jersey has lost more than $US2 billion in revenue.
On top of neighbouring states, the Revel is also taking a hit from New Jersey's online gaming industry that has attracted nearly 200,000 players since opening in November 2013.
Since 2006, the local gaming industry has seen a 44% decline in revenue. According to local paper The Trentonian, this has 'significantly crippled the city's finances.'
More visitors to Atlantic City now come for the beaches than the gambling according to a local trade magazine.
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