Finance

Another Atlantic City Casino Closes

by | September 2, 2014
 

By Amy S. Rosenberg

In the end, the Revel ball did not roll off the tower into the ocean, and no buyer emerged in the middle of the night to save the day.

Instead, Revel merely unraveled through the night to an anticlimactic pre-dawn closing of its moribund casino floor. Employees of Ivan Kane's Jelly Roll Burlesque Club held a stubbornly spirited after party as remaining on-duty dealers watched from emptying tables, waiting to inventory final stacks of chips.

One supervisor put fingers to his own head like a gun and rolled his eyes. An off-duty employee walked around barefoot. A bartender went in for a long private apology to a burlesque dancer.

By 3 a.m. the mood as the casino threw in its $2.4 billion towel dissolved into a boozy revelry of futility. Like the value of the casino itself, bartenders hawked bottles of booze for pennies on the dollar.

"It's a sad and bittersweet thing," said one bartender on her way out for good.

The hotel portion had shut down Monday morning.

It was the back end of a one-two Labor Day weekend punch of casino closings in Atlantic City _ the beloved and familiar as family Showboat on Sunday afternoon, the steely and oblivious as a bad boyfriend Revel at 6 a.m Tuesday. The closings left some serious bruising.

"It was just a debacle from day one," said Cesare DeLeo, sitting out on the Boardwalk with a group of fellow bartenders during a fire alarm evacuation of the place around 1 a.m. that everyone took in stride, like it had happened many times before.

The group stared up at the already-shuttered 57-story tower looming before them, and the closed Showboat barely visible in the 1 a.m. darkness.

Some wondered if the pulled fire alarm might end it all right there prematurely, in a typically underperforming kind of Revel way. But no, they were summoned back inside, if only for the final four hours.

And so the darkest hour was indeed just before the dawn Tuesday as Revel painfully and maybe even pathetically closed its doors not long before the sun rose out over an indifferent Atlantic Ocean.

"I have a feeling we'll be back," said bartender Sven Stevenson, 25, who presided over the after-hours party at the bar of Ivan Kane's Jelly Roll, just to one side of the casino floor. At first drinks were $5; by 3:45, bottles were being sold for a few dollars. Remaining patrons walked around with several bottles on each arm.

At La Dolce Vita, a third party restaurant, an employee cleaning up said the company's three restaurants were not packing up. They are counting on reopening under new owners, he said.

Dancer Donna Yana, originally from Russia, danced on the Jelly Roll bar and catwalks off the casino floor, and others took their turns posing with her. She has a new job at Providence at Tropicana. "I just love this place," she said, of Revel. Like many, she hopes she will return.

"It's been a roller coaster ride," said Katrina Wilson, a table game supervisor who left Showboat to work at Revel. She chatted with two colleagues from Showboat, who had just arrived from a party held at the Steel Pier for them. None had new jobs as yet.

Gamblers stayed at a dwindling number of table games and slots throughout the last hours, with no apparent good or terrible fortune accruing to them or the casino. "I'm putting $10 here, $10 there, all my favorite machines," said Doug Linton, who said he was a Black Card holder. Retired nurse Bernadette Steuver, gambled away $500 in a slot machine. "I donated to the cause," she said. Paul Skladany won $2,000 at blackjack and quit, as he had boasted to friends he would.

Revel's HQ Beach Club, like a perfectly fine sear around an undercooked piece of steak, ran out the clock on Labor Day with an appearance by DJ Steve Aoki, which lasted after the hotel itself shut down arond check out time, 11 a.m. Employees, wearing #HQStrong t-shirts, walked out later arm in arm, some dancing through the casino floor.

Perhaps it was fitting that the casino floor was left as the afterthought to the death of Revel. The casino was from the start described as incidental to the overall business plan of Revel, whose management conceived the enormous structure as a high end, edgy, fast-track resort first, and a casino second.

Revel's bust was marked by other ironies throughout the weekend. The Hooters gave a weakish ukelele version of Atlantic City during Revel's final weekend, offering up the closest thing to hope in the worn Springsteen line "everything that dies some day comes back."

A lady who got famous trying to bring gondolas to Atlantic City in 2009 was back on the Boardwalk insisting she had offered $50 million to Revel's owners to keep it open.

And the steel letters of Revel on the Boardwalk facade _ no such lettering ever appeared on the tower, as if the place was too cool to identify itself to the masses _ were pried off the tiles of the facade, first apparently by souvenir hunters, then not long after by Revel employees.

Out on the casino floor, the lyrics of Heart underscored the feeling of puzzling futility many customers and employees felt at the closing of this brand new resort. "Try, try, try to understand." At least during these hours, when what felt like a perfectly nice resort sputtered to oblivion, as dedicated custodians swept and polished and hauled away trash, it seemed pointless.

(c)2014 The Philadelphia Inquirer

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