So the big, official, grand, this-time-we-really-mean-it opening of Revel Resort & Casino came and went … and all the media has been talking about is Beyoncé and how bootylicious she looks so soon after giving birth. (Seven-plus pages of YouTube videos, too, and scarcely a clip of anything else on the Revel premises.) The good news for both Atlantic City and Revel is that the new megaresort is inspiring favorable comparisons to the Las Vegas Strip, which is a message the Boardwalk desperately needs to hear right now.
In the The Press of Atlantic City, the morning-after Revel story is that the Cosmopolitan style “Gambling? What gambling?” marketing strategy of CEO Kevin DeSanctis has been shelved. Parking is suddenly free and comps — lots of them — are now the order of the day. Peddling $2.4 billion Revel as a resort (especially in cold-weather months) was a risky strategy and give DeSanctis credit for being quick to realize he wasn’t playing a winning hand. He’s spinning it as something that was in the cards all along, simply delayed by two months of technical glitcherie … all the more reason to wonder why he chose to open Revel with so many bells and whistles untested. But it looks as though, thankfully, he just might get a second chance to make a first impression.
We like entertainment director Mitch Gorshin’s outside-the-box thinking … but the Don Draper-on-vacation outfit isn’t working, man.
(Here in Vegas, Cosmo execs still don’t seem to have figured out that casino thing [for one thing, you don't "game," you gamble] and are actually losing ground — casino revenues were very slightly down last quarter.)
Some of DeSanctis’ casino-floor enhancements are slightly ‘WTF?’, possibly reminiscent of Circus Circus during the Jay Sarno era, but give him credit for trying something different:
That must be hella distracting if you’re trying to play digital blackjack (notice how heavily Revel has invested in it), but that’s probably the idea. Anyway, it will be literally months before Revel’s true impact is known.
Reality check. In a no-brainer that’s years overdue, Harrah’s Chester Downs was recently rebranded as Harrah’s Philadelphia. Although the Downs is closer to downtown Philadelphia than is market leader Parx Casino, the “Chester” moniker does make it sound like Harrah’s is out in the sticks someplace. At the risk of some bruised feelings in the City of Chester, the racino now has a stronger moniker, which execs hope will translate into stronger play.
Pulling a reverse of what Revel’s doing, Harrah’s Philly is remaking itself as more resort, less grind joint. Executive Director Kevin O’Toole may not find an 18% decline in slot revenue over four years “any sort of alarming” development, since it’s been more than countered by table-game win. But the name change strongly suggests that others higher up in Caesars Entertainment are less sanguine. With SugarHouse Casino continuing to gain (up 11% last month), the Valley Forge casino starting to make its presence felt — $6 million in its first month — Parx Casino was down 3% in April and Harrah’s was -10%. If ever there was a time to reposition Harrah’s, this is it.
Moving numbers. When I toured the Riviera, the dollar figure for potential reinvestment in the property was around $20 million. According to the Las Vegas Sun, it’s moved up to $35 million, maybe $50 million. A good thing, too, because every time I go back I’m pleasantly surprised by the continuing improvement — but much remains to be done. (The insides of the elevator cars look like something out of the slums.) So ownership’s increased commitment, if it is indeed that, is to be applauded, as is the Riv’s hit-’em-where-they-ain’t marketing strategy vis-a-vis its competitors. And while it might be merely “a question” for CEO Andy Choy and the rest of us whether Sam Nazarian will be able to reopen the Sahara by mid-2014, when it comes to Echelon and Fontainebleau, that same timeline is wishful thinking. The Riv’s going to have become a draw in and of itself because outside help is probably a good six or seven years away.