ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — There were many reasons why Atlantic City's former Revel casino failed after little more than two years in business, including its choking debt, an oversaturated casino market in the northeastern U.S., and a fundamental misreading of their main clientele.
Now that Colorado developer Bruce Deifik has bought the shuttered Boardwalk property from Glenn Straub, who sold it for $118 million more than he paid for it, the property has another chance to succeed in an improving Atlantic City casino market.
The Associated Press surveyed former Revel customers to see what they'd like to see in the new property, which will be named the Ocean Resort Casino.
Here's what they had to say:
Many customers complained about the casino's layout. Features like a giant escalator from the ground floor to the casino level that were intended to dazzle customers and create a spectacular entrance experience instead annoyed many of them. The interior layout of the casino floor ebbed and flowed in many different directions, making it difficult to take a linear path to get from one point to another.
"It just was never a very inviting casino, not where you have to take a gigantic escalator up from the boardwalk entrance to the casino floor," said customer Stan Goldstein, of Neptune. "People fell off it and were hurt, and it's daunting. The original layout of the casino is horrible. It's hard to believe some planners actually thought that it would work. Also, a long walk from the parking garage to the casino. Just horribly laid out from the start."
Revel was the only one of Atlantic City's 12 casinos to ban smoking indoors. That was intended as a marketing advantage to a general population that is smoking less and less with each passing year. But gamblers are not representative of the general population: They are far more likely to smoke, and to expect a casino they patronize to let them do it.
"When Revel first opened, smoking was banned throughout, which made us stay away," said Michelle Bronski, of Yonkers, New York. And even when the smoking ban was dropped, she was uncomfortable with what she termed overzealous security in the drop-off circle by the casino's front door.
"The security guards treated that traffic circle like it was Piccadilly Square and the Queen was about to arrive!" she said.
There's no word on whether the new ownership plans to allow smoking.
Revel had celebrity restaurants that drew loyal customers and rave reviews. But many customers lamented the lack of a casino staple: the buffet. They want more affordably priced dining options, even while bringing back some of the eateries they loved.
Not having a buffet (or hosting bus excursions for day-tripping gamblers) was part of the original Revel owners' attempt to set it apart from the average casino and appeal to a decidedly upscale market of financial professionals and luxury tourists and high rollers. Unfortunately, it soon found there are not enough of those customers to support an expensive casino resort that was already drowning in debt before it opened.
Revel's 5,000-seat Ovation Hall drew high marks from concertgoers for its layout and acoustics. But tickets to its marquee events set new price records for the market. It was opened with a performance from Beyoncé, and drew top-name talent at top-line prices.
Many customers want to see the return of HQ, the outdoor pool and day-club that was one of the city's most popular entertainment options and drew crowds that spilled out onto the Boardwalk when it was full.
SHOPPING AND REWARDS
Many customers say they loved the retail outlets that Revel offered, and some say they were satisfied with the level free gambling or hotel rooms Revel offered. But others say they would like to see more generous offers as part of an all-out effort to show that Ocean Resort welcomes their patronage, from the smallest day-tripper to the highest roller. And that may be as important as anything else in the new casino's success or failure. Even in a recovering market, no dollar can be safely turned away.