Atlantic City’s decline continues as Revel, Showboat close up shop

The chains are up at the Revel Casino and Hotel in Atlantic City. The $2.4 billion casino is now closed, one of four casinos to be dealt their finals hands in Atlantic City this year. (Reuters)

When the year began in Atlantic City, the onetime gambling mecca was home to a dozen casinos. By Tuesday morning, three of those casinos had closed, while a fourth is ready to shut its doors.

The latest casualty is the highly touted, much-troubled Revel Casino Hotel, a resort-casino destination costing $2.4 billion that opened in 2012. Revel closed up shop on Tuesday morning, a day after Showboat also ceased operations, which meant nearly 5,000 jobs vanished in about a day.

My colleague Paul Kane reported from Atlantic City on the strange feeling inside the casino just hours before the closure:

Still impeccably clean, the casino floor had a post-apocalyptic feel to it.

Dozens and dozens of slot machines were empty. Blackjack tables were roped off. Workers from other portions of the casino, already off their jobs, huddled around “The Social,” the circular bar at the center of the floor. Drinks were set at $5 for anything, except bartenders had already run out of most high-end liquors.

Revel’s parent company announced last month that it would shut down the venue in September due to “several unavoidable circumstances.”

The money simply wasn’t there for the casino, which New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) had called a “turning point” for the city in March 2012. Atlantic City’s hotels had a combined $121 million in gross operating profits during the first six months of this year, up from $103 million over the same period in 2013, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement reported.

But Revel posted a loss of $46 million from January through the end of June. Revel was one of six casinos to report losses during the first half of this year, and while the $46 million figure was smaller than the the losses reported during the same period last year ($84 million), it was still nearly four times as much as the other five casinos lost combined.

“Despite the effort to improve the financial performance of Revel, it has not proven to be enough to put the property on a stable financial footing,” the company said in a statement about the closure.

Among the other casinos reporting losses during the first half of the year: Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, which reported a $7.4 million loss, significantly up from the $1.2 million loss reported during the same period last year.

Trump Plaza announced in July that it would close, which meant that more than 1,000 people were also going to be out of a job. Its namesake, meanwhile, has sued to demand that his name be removed from it. This offers a fitting bookend for the venue, which also began its life with Donald Trump and an acrimonious lawsuit involving the use of his name.

Still, news that it will be the fourth casino to close this year (the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel, closed down in January) is emblematic of a larger decay eating away at Atlantic City’s casino business. The city’s casino revenues are essentially half of what they were in 2006, a huge decline that has come as other states along the Northeast Corridor have added casinos, urging gamblers to stay closer to home.

While Trump Entertainment Resorts, which owns Trump Plaza, has said it is “reviewing alternatives” for the property, nothing has emerged yet that looks like it could halt the closure. The state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement recently approved the request by Trump Plaza to shut down, which means it still appears likely to close by Sept. 16.

Revel, the glimmering jewel that aspired to offer a different kind of Atlantic City, didn’t go quietly. At about 1 a.m. early Tuesday morning, the fire alarm went off, temporarily emptying the casino about five hours before its scheduled closure. As Dan McQuade of Philadelphia Magazine reported, most gamblers didn’t return when people were allowed back inside half an hour later. It was, as McQuade wrote, an oddly appropriate metaphor.

(A quick note for anyone who still has Revel chips lying around: Even though the slots have been shuttered and the roulette tables have gone quiet, anyone who still has these chips can redeem them until the end of the month. You have to go to the Revel cashier’s office on weekdays until Sept. 30, after which you will have to file something with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, so if at all possible you should probably try to redeem them at the hotel before the end of the month.)

Mark Berman is a reporter on the National staff. He runs Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and developing stories from around the country.
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