Photo: Simone Foxman for Business Insider
On Monday, the Revel Atlantic City officially opened its doors to the public, marking the end of a project half a decade in the making.As gaming lags in the Las Vegas of the East Coast, expectations are high for the casino resort to turn things around.
Revel CEO Kevin DeSanctis boasted that the venture has already created some 10,000 jobs in the region—5,000 in the resort’s direct employ. Of those workers, some 800 are Atlantic City residents, and most live in the greater Atlantic City area.
The company believes it harbors a unique view towards gaming and tourism among regional casinos and resorts. Their edge? Revel says gaming is not its primary attraction.
“The last thing Atlantic City needs is another casino,” CEO Kevin DeSanctis told Business Insider on Monday. “A big part of the economics comes from the casino and that’s what allows you to build places like this, at the end of the day. But the difference is in the customer that’s spending that night. So as opposed to having a customer who’s totally focused on gaming activity, you have a customer who’s focused on a lot of non-gaming activity. Will they still play in the casino? Absolutely! Will they play a little less? Absolutely!”
Even so, the company still struggles with a $1.1 billion debt load in bonds rated as “junk” (or below investment-grade) by Standard and Poor’s ratings agency. S&P has questioned the company’s cash flow expectations, adding that “the rating also reflects Revel’s reliance on a single property for cash flow generation in a challenged gaming market and a business model that relies heavily on spurring nascent demand from a distinct customer base–namely cash paying guests seeking a resort-type experience, as well as convention and group visitors.”
Irrespective of these concerns, Revel is something different, at least in the Atlantic City gaming model. In a city full of windowless casinos that largely ignore their beachfront location and the city’s warm summer climate, Revel emphasises light—even allowing the Sun’s rays to filter into the casino floor. Indeed, the ocean is the first thing guests see when they arrive at the general resort entrance. It highlights vast outdoor spaces for both hotel and day guest recreation.
What’s more, Revel is entirely non-smoking, unlike other casinos which have fought to keep their gaming floors open to smokers. And while other casinos provide myriad elevators for largely immobile gamers, Revel encourages its clientele to walk around and take the stairs.
Regardless of one’s beliefs in the success of its business model, it is hard to deny that Revel is a wild card in the world of East Coast gaming.
We arrived to celebrate Revel's soft opening at 5 AM, in time for a sunrise welcome by CEO Kevin DeSanctis.
DeSanctis was joined by New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno. The state government was instrumental in finding funding for the Revel project during the financial crisis.
Despite early morning wind and cold weather, we do admit: the sunrise from Revel's 11th floor garden was pretty spectacular.
Every corner of Revel takes advantage of natural light. This eating area is located on the same floor as the hotel lobby.
Their first stop is for a Revel Rewards card, which allows consumers to earn points on any expenditure at the resort—not just gaming.
We were hard-pressed to find any straight lines in the casino, even in its least-trafficked hallways.
Guests are encouraged to stroll the casino's three levels of exterior space. This areas—like most of the outdoor areas—are open to the public.
Though we didn't play a hand, we stopped to say hello to some dealers as they waited for their first guests.
Pool, air hockey, and a variety of board and card games are scattered about the building for public enjoyment.
He showed us plans for the guest quarters at the building. There are a completely separate set of plans for back of house.
Revel spokesmen remarked repeatedly that they did not expect this kind of crowd. Here guests wait in line for Revel cards.
And despite the fact that only 500 of its 1,900 rooms were made available at Revel's soft opening, even the hotel lobby bustled with curious visitors.
Revel convinced local authorities to undertake a major dredging project to build up the beach outside the building.
While pools are reserved for hotel guests, hotel and non-hotel guests alike can rent out poolside cabanas for a hefty fee.
In the evening, press were invited to the opening of Ivan Kane's Royal, a burlesque club located on the casino floor.
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