Honestly, though, it was also easy to forget this concept. With nearly 3,000 one-armed bandits and nearly 100 game tables, plus the requisite barrage of loud music and maximalist design, resort and casino slowly swapped places in my head. Resort with a casino . . . resortino . . . casino with a resort.
Revel, which opens officially Memorial Day weekend with a headlining appearance by Beyonce, broke ground in 2007. But the entertainment compound on the northernmost end of the boardwalk is attempting to shatter more than just hard surface. Its mission, chanted like a mantra by indoctrinated employees and converted guests alike, is to create an entirely new Atlantic City experience: a property that accentuates the resort slice of its decadent pie and relegates the casino to the status of, say, a side dish of ice cream. The intended message is that now visitors can blow their money in so many other ways.
“The idea of a casino isn’t new anymore,” said Bryant Simon, author of “Boardwalk of Dreams: Atlantic City and the Fate of Urban America.” “The appeal has to be: You’re coming here for a destination. It’s a novelty isolated from the rest of Atlantic City.”
Personally, gambling drives me away, due to a clingy attachment to my money. Yet early this month, I heard a siren call from Atlantic City, and her name was Revel. The property was offering a May preview package that included a raft of perks, such as an ocean-view room, entry to the Bask spa, wine tasting at the O2 bar, a $30 dining credit and admission to Ivan Kane’s Royal Jelly Burlesque Nightclub. Unlike many casino-resort specials, however, the deal did not include complimentary slot play. A relief but also a letdown. (I have no qualms about playing with other people’s money.)
As I drove into the half-empty parking garage, I wondered whether Revel had real resort cred, or was it just a casino in drag? To find out, I had no choice but to be all in.
Over the past century and a half, Atlantic City, former playground of the rich and narcissistic, has experienced ups and downs and plateaus. Most recently, it has been lower than a sea slug.
In 2003, a flash of hope brightened the Jersey Shore sky and buoyed the mood. Borgata, a shimmery gold resort-casino comfortable with its hyphenated surname, opened on the marina side of the city. The luxe property, with name-brand chefs, high-end shopping and an indulgent spa, infused some Vegas juice into AC’s veins. More recently, Golden Nugget took over Trump Marina, spending $150 million to erase the Donald’s fingerprints and make its own mark on the dockside site. The property, which celebrated its grand return in late April, features modern designs that glow with the oranges and reds of the sinking sun. The Nugget avoids kitschy themes but ultimately embraces its casino DNA. You pass slot machines en route to the front desk, the restaurants, the bathrooms and the bar. Upon check-in, I received a slip of paper for the Real Gold giveaway, with a first prize of 10 ounces of gold.