Will the planned reopening of Atlantic City’s Revel — now known as TEN AC — be the first chapter of a successful resort? Or just the latest episode of stops, starts and missteps for the shuttered property?
In terms of value, Glenn Straub hit a veritable jackpot when he bought the Revel Casino Hotel out of bankruptcy for $82 million in September 2014.
The hulking glass structure with its street-level sprawl and monolithic hotel tower was, if nothing else, a visual marvel. It featured a construction price tag ($2.4 billion) almost as absurd as its undulating, blue-glass form.
And yet, somehow the feisty Florida developer Straub was able to score it for less than $100 million. His purchase was a lone bright spot in a year when four Atlantic City casinos closed.
However, whatever notions of hope existed in the wake of the purchase quickly faded as the Revel’s bizarre transformation from abandoned property to TEN began.
Revel saga started in September 2014
Atlantic City had a rough 2014. The Trump Plaza, Revel, Showboat and Atlantic Club all closed their doors all in the same year, representing the first time in the city’s history that two — let alone four — casinos closed in the same calendar year.
The Revel was perhaps the most stunning closure of them all. It was completed just two years prior for $2.4 billion.
The breadth of the economic collapse was evident in that the sparkling new Revel closed its doors the same weekend as the 27-year-old Showboat. Neither newcomers nor old timers were safe.
From a cynical perspective, the Revel’s doom may have been signaled the day it opened. Bigwigs toasted the new venture with blueberry smoothies, an odd choice in a city where booze and champagne were more fitting launch libations.
The casino’s smoking ban, lack of a buffet, and the fact that it had to halt construction because of the Great Recession were also bad signs, reported CBS News shortly after the Revel closed.
To the owners’ credit, the “healthy” approach to casino gambling was adventurous, if not culturally appropriate. It came in a time when millennials care little about traditional gambling experiences.
Straub ends a contentious sale in April 2015
Eight months after the Revel said goodbye to its gamblers and guests, Straub bought the casino for around three percent of its original cost.
A Press of Atlantic City photo and corresponding caption punctuated an article about the purchase. Straub is positioned on a sidewalk in a construction hat and a black overcoat. He stood casually standing resolute against the backdrop of a gray sky and demure-looking Revel.
“Straub says he hopes they have something open this year,” the 2015 article read, “but he hasn’t decided whether it will include a casino; he has talked often of an indoor-outdoor water park there.”
The construction hat seemed out of place at the time, although it was most likely required to enter the property. It was a sign of the struggles and hard-headedness to come.
Later that year, Straub’s development company refused to make necessary updates to the property to prevent it from being deemed a fire hazard, resulting in daily fines of $1,000.
Surprise, surprise: 2016 soft launch a bust and a name change
A year after Straub bought Revel, the problems continued, despite his claims that the property would have a soft-launch that June.
It turned out the Revel was in no shape to welcome the public. In the days leading up to the failed launch, only minor work was being done on the property. Needless to say, the Revel didn’t open on June 15, 2016.
Last September, the news broke that Revel would be rebranded as TEN. It was a seemingly strategic move to divorce the property from its bumpy history.
In the months that unfolded, however, it became clear the real problem was Straub, and as long as he had the reins of this hobbled horse, progress was only an ideal, not a reality.[i15-table tableid=4306]
2017: More failures, new opening date
Straub started the year telling the New Jersey Casino Control Commission (and anyone who would listen) that he refused to comply with the state’s request that he file for a casino license.
Straub’s argued that in hiring a third party, headed by Robert Landino, to run the property’s casino. That company should apply for the license, Straub said. A Jan. 31 hearing made the matter clear; the NJCCC ruled Straub was the party responsible for acquiring a casino license. It was just one in a number of run-ins with regulators.
In the meantime, Straub said at least a portion of the property would open in February, which didn’t happen. He then announced the casino would open this June, exactly one year after the property’s projected opening date in 2016.
The best guess, barring some kind of miracle, is that the TEN of June 2017 will be no different than the Revel of June 2015: vacant, languishing and with an uncertain future.