Revel Resorts, the $2.4 billion, 6.3 million sq.-ft. casino resort complex on the north end of the Atlantic City Boardwalk, is opening for a six week preview on Monday. While the full operation won’t go live until Memorial Day Weekend, almost everything will be ready to go at 7 a.m. Monday morning.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Revel doesn’t hide from the ocean. Most of Atlantic City’s casinos are built so that you forget you’re down the shore. The goal is to get people to spend money, not sit on the beach. Revel chucked that idea out the window. When you walk into the casino, you’re greeted with wide, tall windows looking out onto the ocean. The design maximizes oceanfront views, and you can even see the water from some of the slot machines. It might not sound revolutionary – the idea of using your best natural attraction as a way to draw people to your property – but it is for Atlantic City. Which leads me to my next point.
2. Gambling is a small part of Revel. I took the three hour Revel tour on Monday, and spent the least amount of time in the gaming area. That’s not because I don’t gamble, but because Revel is offering a lot more than just slots and table games. The Revel spokesperson likened it to a cruise ship, which is marketed as a getaway that happens to have gambling on it, not as slot machines on a boat. Revel is meant to be a getaway that happens to also have a casino as one of its offerings.
So what else do you get that’s not gambling? A lot. Iron Chefs Jose Garcias and Marc Forgione are opening restaurants inside, the highlight being Garcias’ food truck restaurant, an actual food truck that is installed in the resort. Also, fans of his Village Whiskey will be happy to hear that the Atlantic City location is three times the size of the Philadelphia location.
Not only will there be the four level, 85,000 sq.-ft., indoor/outdoor HQ nightclub, but nightlife guru Ivan Kane is opening a Royal Jelly Burlesque club that I predict will become the go-to after-hours spot this summer (Jelly Roll will be open on April 2, but the HQ will not). In addition to Royal Jelly’s nightly shows, they’ll have shows starting at 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, all in a sleek space where dancers are lowered onto the bar by a moving catwalk. The spa, called Bask, has all the usual amenities, and the unusual: a turkish bath, a steam room lined with bricks of salt, and a full bar. Revel also offers three immersion pools plus a large indoor/outdoor pool (you can swim from the indoor to the outdoor area) with 12 private cabanas available for rent.
3. Revel is smoke free. It is the only casino in Atlantic City to be so. The decision was made based on a Stockton College study that showed, in our region, 80% of the population are non-smokers. Of the 20% who do smoke, 10% aspire to quit. In our poll, 75% of responders said they’d visit Revel because it’s smoke free.
Casinos in 19 states (Pennsylvania is not one of them) are smoke free, but no other casino in New Jersey is. When New Jersey passed its indoor smoking ban in 2006, the casinos fought tooth and nail to get an exemption. Gambling and smoking are two vices that are tied together, much like smoking and drinking, and if people don’t need to leave the casino for a puff, they won’t stop gambling.
But for non-smokers, it’s a huge turnoff. Even though the Atlantic City casinos have non-smoking areas, it still doesn’t stop the smoke from hanging over the gambling floors, or seeping into your clothes and hair.
Revel CEO Kevin DeSanctis has always said he wanted Revel to be smoke free, though given that the announcement came only weeks before preview opening, it must have been a last minute call.
4. New Jersey needs this to work. Because we’re on the hook. When Revel hit the financing skids and construction shut down, the state gave them $261 million in tax rebates, as I outlined in this New Jersey Monthly piece, to help them move forward. This was probably the driving force behind Gov. Christie’s begging of Bruce Springsteen to play at Revel’s Ovation concert hall on Labor Day weekend (which is a long shot, as Chuck Darrow so eloquently pointed out in his Daily News blog). If it fails, it’ll be at a loss to the taxpayers.
Anything to help Atlantic City will be good for the state, and optimism is running high at Revel. I visited on a day when many employees were going through training sessions that also served as rallies to get them excited for opening day. But before I did the Revel tour, I also took a walk through the Pier Shops at Caesars, another big budget project that opened on a wave of enthusiasm but crashed last year in a foreclosure auction.
So it’s easy to be pessimistic, or at least cautious about Revel’s potential. New Jersey casino gaming revenues are still sliding, making less than their competitors in Pennsylvania that don’t have an ocean to use as a marketing hook. Even New Jersey’s Office of Legislative Services says that Christie is far too optimistic in his budget’s projections of how much tax dollars casinos will bring in – a figure based on Revel leading to an Atlantic City rebound.
Revel is a beautiful place in a gorgeous setting, and I’m looking forward to spending a few days there this summer. They’re certainly not holding back in spreading the word, either, rolling out a multi-pronged advertising campaign, bringing in Maroon 5 for their inaugural concert and hiring Beyonce to kick off their Memorial Day weekend with three concerts.
Will it work? It’s the big gamble.