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It's gaming, not clubs and hot tubs, that will save Revel

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Two hundred seventy-five days.

That's how much time separated Revel Entertainment casino's Memorial Day grand opening and its filing for bankruptcy last week.

In some ways, that feels like not much time at all. In other ways, it seems like an eternity. After all, if you say it's fair to call Revel a mere disappointment, you'd probably call the Challenger explosion an accident. It never performed in the same class as other casinos when it came to gaming revenue, and saw its cachet diminish along with the temperatures as destination visitors sought warmer climes during the winter.

The casino, of course, was years in the making; in fact, the grand opening celebration seemed more like a victory dance that this abandoned steel skeleton actually was completed as dazzling crystal palace, rather than a celebration of all that was to come. But given how quickly Atlantic City's fortunes have turned since 2006, it seemed overly optimistic to hope Revel's model — come for the nightlife, gambling is an afterthought — could sustain it as more gamblers went to closer out-of-state options.

According to an announcement from the casino, there are no plans to make management changes as a result of the restructuring. But there needs to be a plan for what Revel looks like going forward. It can't simply advertise itself as a destination that happens to feature gaming any more. It has to start thinking like a casino, and that means doing things it hasn't done in the past, like offer shorter overnight stays and comps to frequent players. It can still aim at the top of the market, as opposed to the buses of change-laden seniors pulling slot handles with all the facial expression of a bag of flour, but it's got to have more than pools and bars. It's got to be a casino.

And it needs to make sure it's a leader in online gaming. Ironically, online gaming would have doomed the casino's old model, as more players placed their bets from home instead of paying to stay in Revel's luxe rooms. With a gaming-first attitude, it can capture a big chunk of this audience and stay competitive.

If you told Revel's builders that the casino would be saved by data centers and Wi-Fi, as opposed to clubs and hot tubs, you would have been laughed at. But this is the way forward now. After all, while the beach and Boardwalk are great assets that Atlantic City likes to tout as unique to the resort city, those amenities don't have much staying power after Labor Day. That's a lesson Revel has learned the hard way. Here's hoping they figure it out after the reboot.

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