By Michael Hill
When it comes to the $2.4 billion Revel resort, Israel Posner of the Levenson Institute of Gaming said, “There’s nothing like it on the East Coast.”
Posner sees not a bankrupt boardwalk building but the tallest building in New Jersey ripe for a re-engineered run at revenue generation.
“It has the capability of being an outstanding product and can make a real big difference in Atlantic City,” he said.
Posner is the executive director of the Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton College in Atlantic City. He says there’s irony in Revel’s bankruptcy filing.
“Most of the group business was there.They did very well on restaurants. Clubs are doing killer business. The club’s probably the best clubs in the city,” Posner said.
But, Posner says in this gaming mecca still trying to reverse a decline in revenue, Revel ran into the roadblock of tough economic times as discretionary income and spending still lag behind 2007 levels.
“The Great Recession really has had lingering effects,” he said.
And so has more casino competition, with confidence building that when or if New Jersey allows casino gambling outside Atlantic City it will do well. Meadowlands chairman Jeff Gural is banking on it.
“I think we can do OK, you just can’t over-bill. You can’t do something stupid like Revel and spend $2 billion,” Gural said.
Posner says Revel has never reached its designed potential because it ran out of money to build its second tower. Instead of 3,800 hotel rooms, Revel has 1,400 in one tower with 500 rooms in need of completion.
“So that means is it’s always going to look fairly empty. It’ll look like people are rattling around. If you understand gambling, if you understand why people go to casinos, they want energy, they want excitement. They want the vibe,” Posner said.
Right now, the vibe is about finding a buyer to avoid shutting down Revel and laying off 3,200 workers, some of them with low-paying jobs who would likely turn to Atlantic County for help.
“Right now there are 48,000 people on food stamps in Atlantic County. We’d like to see that number go down and to get it down. You need to have jobs,” said Atlantic County Chief of Staff Howard Kyle.
Revel representatives declined to talk on camera but did issue a statement that included a denial that the workers voting to unionize had anything to do with the bankruptcy filing.
Revel says, through Johnson Communications LLC President Lisa Johnson, it’s had “confidential discussions with many parties” about a sale. And what about shuttering its doors if there is no buyer? Revel says “that is not the company’s intention.”
Worker after Revel worker declined to talk about the prospect of losing their jobs.
Posner says it’s clear what Revel needs.
“It works if you have deep pockets, a long-term vision and a marketing plan that addresses the market as it is now.,” he said.
Posner says someone will want what will likely be the newest structure on the boardwalk for the next 30 years.