By NJToday Contributor Dick Sheeran
Atlantic City is about to revel at the Revel, the new mega resort-casino about to open with a champagne toast at sunrise on April 2.
There hasn’t been this much anticipation in AC since the ribbon was cut on the town’s first casino, Resorts International 34 years ago.
I covered that opening as a reporter for KYW-TV3 (Philadelphia). It was truly an historic event. It launched AC on a wild ride of spinning roulette wheels and jangling slot machines.
For 30 years, Atlantic City stood tall in the gaming world, winning more and more money every year. Then reality bit … and bit hard. Five years ago, the economy tanked and neighboring states horned in on the action. Revenues dropped and a sense of foreboding kicked in.
The $2.6 billion baby is being called a game changer. That surely is the hope. Revel is the first new casino to open in Atlantic City since the very successful Borgata enlivened the scene nine years ago.
By all accounts, Revel is a glassy spectacle that should draw the curious to Atlantic City whether they gamble or not. In fact, Revel’s CEO Kevin DeSanctis points out that his property is a resort first and a casino second.
It reflects the new thinking here in AC that bringing visitors takes more than slot machines.
Revel’s sleek 47-story hotel towers over all the other buildings in the northern end of the boardwalk and the rest of Atlantic City.
It’s planners have taken every advantage of Atlantic City’s greatest natural resources, the Atlantic Ocean and the beautiful beachfront. This is something they don’t have in Vegas or Pennsylvania or Delaware or New York and never will. It is something early casino operators didn’t have to concern themselves with, because for 30 years of east coast monopoly on gambling, slots and crap tables were enough.
Those days are clearly over. The convenience gambler can go to his or her neighborhood slot parlor in Philly or elsewhere.
Revel represents a whole new ballgame in Atlantic City’s colorful history as a resort, a history of ups and downs over 160 years.
Yes, Revel will have a dazzling casino with all the bells and whistles, plus top shelf restaurants, shops, bars, etc. — all the amenities the modern vacationer demands. Gambling is only part of that picture.
The idea is to get folks to stay a couple of days and enjoy the experience, not just roll down the parkway in the morning, spend a couple of hours at the penny slots and then head home on the bus.
Revel is taking a chance on being entirely smoke free. You could call this a gamble. They presumably will adjust depending on the reaction. Whether you like it or not, smoking and drinking is part of the gambling experience for a lot of people, despite health warnings.
As Revel opens a whole new era in Atlantic City, the big question is: will it expand the market and bring a whole new set of visitors with its obvious newness or will it soak up all the juice in the AC market and force the weaker casinos to cash in their chips?
Atlantic City will know in the near future.
Meanwhile, it’s time to revel in the Revel and all that it means.
Dick Sheeran is a veteran television news reporter and former anchor of CBS3-TV, Philadelphia.