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Ocean Resort Casino: Once more, with feeling

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The nongaming experience – anything in a gambling town other than gambling – has been a key factor driving Atlantic City's burgeoning renaissance of the past few years, some suggest.

It may also be what attracted two of the city’s newest contenders: the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City and Ocean Resort Casino.

“I’ve watched the experiences, the properties expand,” said Robert Ambrose, a professor of casino management at Fairleigh Dickinson University. “It’s no longer just a casino, it’s a property that has a casino.”

In early April, the Hyatt hotel chain announced it would partner with Ocean Resort Casino, formerly the troubled Revel Casino. That was after the property sold for $200 million to Integrated Properties, a Colorado-based developer.

The Ocean Resort Casino will be part of Hyatt’s Unbound Collection, comprised of roughly a dozen hotels across the U.S. that retain their own name but utilize several of Hyatt’s services.

AC Ocean Walk, which owns the resort, will oversee management and day-to-day operations of the resort, along with sales and booking, Hyatt spokesperson Jorian Weiner said.

In return, AC Ocean gets “sales capabilities, global relationships, global reservation system through Hyatt.com and the award-winning customer loyalty program,” Weiner said.

Towering over the iconic Atlantic City boardwalk as the tallest building in the city, the former Revel site will get a total makeover.

Integrated Properties bought the 20-acre property in January for a fraction of Revel’s almost $3 billion construction cost. The sale followed years-long travails including two bankruptcies since its 2012 opening.

“The debt was unsustainable,” said Chris Paladino, New Brunswick Redevelopment Corp. president and a participant in Atlantic City’s redevelopment efforts.

The Revel was “impacted not only by the recessionary forces in the economy but competition where people didn’t just have to travel as far to get to a casino,” he said.

Ambrose noted that Revel offered nongaming amenities but said it dove into the concept too early, before the trend took hold. “They tried to be too different for the time; I refer to it as a $2 billion monument in the sand,” he said.

“All of the things that I really liked about and appreciated about the hotel were things that were the antithesis of a casino hotel,” Paladino mused.

With the Revel, a patron could easily get in and out of the hotel and parking garage, check in and out, and not even cross paths with the casino section, he said. “All of the things that I loved about the Revel, they say ‘Yeah, that’s why it failed,’” Paladino added.

Hyatt is likely to take a somewhat different approach.

“They are looking at meetings and conferences and market segment, and Hyatt’s well-positioned for that around the globe,” said Rummy Pandit, executive director of the Lloyd D. Levinson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University. “That’s one of the areas they specialize in.”

Pandit cited the 160,000 square feet of meeting space as a valuable asset for the conference and meeting space experience, and a 32,000-square-foot spa as an asset for the nongaming experience.

There are 1,400 rooms being offered in the new incarnation, which Hyatt and AC Ocean Walk said they intend to fill.

Pandit suggested the millennial demo in particular seems to be looking for extras beyond gambling.

“Now we have millennials that are coming into the area,” Pandit said. “What they like are somewhat different amenities than what the baby boomers like. The baby boomers enjoyed sitting in front of the slot machine, whereas the millennials are more about the experience. The food and the drink, the clubs.”

To that end, AC Ocean Walk announced last month it struck a deal with Topgolf, a Dallas-based company that has entertainment and luxury golfing centers throughout the U.S. and overseas.

This summer could be the start of the new era for Atlantic City. The Hard Rock Casino has announced it’ll open its doors to the public June 28. Ocean Resort will open the same day as the Hard Rock.

Integrated Properties didn’t respond to requests for comment. But in an interview with The Associated Press, Bruce Deifik, the company’s founder and president, said Ocean Resort will not open until it’s absolutely ready.

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Daniel J. Munoz

Daniel J. Munoz


Daniel Munoz covers politics and state government for NJBIZ. You can contact him at dmunoz@njbiz.com.

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