Ocean Resort Casino is now truly prepared for its June 28 opening with the New Jersey Casino Control Commission granting it a casino license this week.
After two days of testimony at a special hearing, Ocean Resort Casino was granted a conditional license. Principal owner Bruce Deifik said it was the culmination of a lot of hard work:
“(This is) a dream come true for myself and my entire family.”
Deifik re-branded the former Revel as Ocean Resort Casino earlier in 2018. Renovations began almost immediately afterward.
Now, with the last piece in place, Ocean Resort is set to open on the same date the renovated and re-branded Trump Taj Mahal will open as Hard Rock Atlantic City just down the Boardwalk.
Casino Control Commission concerns
In the end, the commission granted Ocean Resort Casino the license with 26 conditions related to its financial resources and relationship with lender JPMorgan Chase.
Commissioner Alisa Cooper said she had concerns heading into the hearing. In fact, the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement was similarly on edge about Ocean Resort’s capabilities.
“But after listening to the very extensive, and personal, testimony of the past two days, my concerns have been eased,” Cooper said.
The commission asked the Ocean Resort Casino team to prove its executives are of good character and integrity. Plus, Ocean Resort had to have the financial resources, business acumen, and casino experience to run the facility.
Ocean Resort Casino CFO Alan Greenstein told the commission Ocean Resort expects to take hold of more than 10 percent of the Atlantic City casino market. That number is estimated to increase to 12 percent by 2021.
Greenstein projected the property will generate close to $300 million in overall gambling revenue in its first year. Deifik, in turn, said the organization has $40 million in cash on hand to operate the business.
A clearer picture of Ocean Resort emerges
During testimony, however, Deifik and other Ocean Resort Casino officials revealed tidbits about the property, the grand opening, and future plans that were previously unknown.
The two-day hearing ended up being an eye-opening experience for many.
On the one hand, Ocean Resort has made no secret about its efforts to not repeat Revel’s mistakes. The changes it has in store for the property are well-documented.
Crews have reconfigured the casino floor and removed a wall that made casino access from the Boardwalk impossible. Plus, a two-foot safety glass has been installed around the escalators at the entrance.
Ocean Resort Casino CEO Frank Leone, a veteran of the Atlantic City casino business, said the property’s mission is to appeal to Atlantic City’s core casino audience in a way Revel never did.
Part of that will mean:
- Allowing smoking in the casino.
- Allowing single-night stays in the hotel.
- Implementing a competitive player rewards program.
- Opening a buffet restaurant in late 2018 or early 2019.
A sight-unseen purchase with renovations still in process
Deifik also told the commission he bought the property without ever stepping foot inside and had spent nearly $35 million on renovations so far. But even then, some pieces of the property remain under construction.
The hotel at Ocean Resort Casino will have 1,399 rooms once it is complete. However, that won’t happen before the June 28 opening. Twelve hotel floors with 600 rooms remain unfinished, the commission learned.
The casino will ultimately feature a 7,500-square-foot William Hill sportsbook right in the center of the casino floor. But, it will not be complete in time for the opening.
Officials at Ocean Resort Casino said it will operate sports betting out of a temporary sportsbook for the next six weeks.
Free Springsteen concert idea nixed?
Grand opening weekend details were also revealed during the testimony, including plans that were tabled.
Deifik told the commission he tried to get iconic New Jersey rock star Bruce Springsteen to play a free concert on the beach for the opening.
However, he balked at the $5 million appearance fee Springsteen’s people reportedly asked him to donate to charity.
Instead, comedian, singer, and Academy Award-winning actor Jamie Foxx will emcee the casino’s opening weekend. Entertainment will also include high-profile DJs at the property’s HQ2 Nightclub.
An online casino and a ghost from the past
Ocean Resort Casino partnered with online gaming software supplier GAN earlier this year with plans to open an NJ gambling site sometime in 2018.
During the hearing, officials said they are now targeting a July 1 launch of the new Ocean Resort NJ online casino.
Finally, although former owner Glenn Straub sold the property in January, he’s still likely to see some benefit should it succeed down the road.
As part of the purchase agreement, Ocean Resort will have to pay Straub some parking fees. These stand at $1.50 for every car parked in the casino’s garage starting in the third year after opening.
Plus, the fees will increase to $4 per car by the 10th year. Ocean Resort executives figure that will cost them an average of $975,000 per year by 2021.