The recent celebration at Ocean Casino Resort wasn’t just about the property turning one. The property located on the North Beach section of the boardwalk is fresh off its best month to date.

The revenue numbers released last week by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement are proof that Ocean is making strides in Atlantic City.

Ocean reported a casino win of $20,158,853. The number is good enough for sixth best among the nine properties. And yes, we are talking about the same place that was $23 million in the red at the beginning of 2018.

Overall, the newcomer experienced all-time highs in several key categories:

  • Highest gaming revenue month ($21,488,130) in the property’s history
  • Highest slot revenue month ($14,144,131) in the property’s history
  • Most profitable month in the property’s history
  • Highest occupancy month in the property’s history

Mike Donovan, Ocean’s chief marketing officer and senior vice president, said all the numbers were “great to see.”

“It’s finally good to see all of these initiatives the team has been working very hard on over the last five months have started to finally pay dividends for us.”

Ocean Casino Resort take two

It’s no secret that the building formally known as Revel has yet to live up to its full potential.

The property failed to make a profit under its former name, leading to a 2014 casino closure.

Bruce Deifik and AC Oceanwalk purchased and reopened the property on June 28 of last year, but the company still suffered a similar fate.

The new owner-in-transition Luxor Capital is approaching the finish line to become the new licensed owner. The company is awaiting final approval from the Casino Control Commission.

But the new owner is not sitting back with its hands folded at the table.

As a matter of fact, the subtle change of flip-flopping the words casino and resort has customers showing interest in Ocean again. Some are former visitors giving the property a second chance.

Donovan noted Ocean has added over a million people from the Revel database that they weren’t talking to previously.

Whatever the reason is, the results are showing in the monthly numbers. Donovan said the focus is about creating a buzz via promotional offers and advertising.

“It’s so hard to get people to come back to the property again and give Ocean another shot,” said Donovan.

“I think we’ve been overwhelmed by the response of guests and people that say I’ve never been to Ocean before.”

For example, Donovan shared a couple of the responses he has heard from players and customers:

“It’s beautiful.”

“I haven’t been to Atlantic City in years, and this isn’t what I expected. It’s over the top.”

June setting the summer stage

Business is just starting to heat up at Ocean.

Passing long-standing properties Bally’s ($16,059,740), Resorts ($15,511,159), and Golden Nugget ($15,793,315) in casino revenue is a big accomplishment.

And the property is closing in on 40-year-old Caesars ($23,257,029), too.

The big difference between Ocean and these other competitors is the resort model versus the traditional brick-and-mortar casino approach. Ocean has a lot to offer customers besides its 138,000-square-foot casino floor.

This is just a small sampling:

Each appeals to different demographics and attracts traffic to the property. At least from a summer standpoint, all systems seem to be clicking.

Donovan said weekends are really busy on the property, and the hotel is selling out every night.

The big picture in Atlantic City

Atlantic City casinos as a whole enjoyed a total gaming revenue increase of 20.2% in June. Thirteen straight months of double-digit increases are evidence that the market is looking healthy.

The timeline coincides with the launch of NJ sports betting.

And it’s an industry that has climbed to $3 billion in handle. Adding Hard Rock Atlantic City and Ocean numbers to the equation helps, too.

But now is when we will start to see if the addition of two new properties is helping or hurting the AC market. July is the first month for a year-over-year comparison of nine properties versus seven.

If we look at June numbers, five of the seven previously existing properties saw a year-over year percentage drop. Harrah’s Resort suffered the biggest drop at 17.3%.

Hard Rock, meanwhile, jumped to No. 2 with $32,566,980 in total gaming revenue.

While Ocean continues to enjoy an upward swing, the topic is a hard one to ignore. Donovan and his team will focus on executing a game plan that seems to be working.

“It is definitely going to be interesting to see a year later where the market stands and kind of where the Atlantic City market is going to settle after a full year of operations,” Donovan said.

“We are looking to have double-digit gains from where we were at last year in the month so we are still pacing strong there.”

He noted there is a luck factor that plays into the table games revenue, so it’s hard to project how those numbers will turn out. But overall, things are trending in a positive direction.

“We are looking very bright for the next 12 months to come,” Donovan added.

Ocean has more up its sleeves

The buzz surrounding Ocean is likely not going to slow down once Labor Day rolls around. College football and NFL betting seasons are weeks away.

In fact, the Ocean team is working on plans to rent out the skyboxes above the sportsbook.

Plus the property still has two available online sports betting skins under its license. If and when the property is expanding in this area is being kept quiet for now.

And of course, there is the untapped NJ online casino market.

Of course, Ocean does have a self-branded online casino platform, but it remains unavailable to iOS users. The problem is tied to the new Apple policy.

Donovan said they are working with software provider GAN to resolve the issue.

This continues to be the weak spot in the property’s overall performance with just $356,790 in revenue. Not having an Apple app certainly plays a roll in that weakness.

Meanwhile, the overall market is looking sunny with another $38 million month.

Adding a strong mobile sports betting and casino portfolio will certainly help Ocean in the total gaming revenue department.

On the land-based side, Ocean has additional capital improvement projects in the works. The majority of them fall under the details coming soon category.

The District, a quick-service food court, is getting close to opening. It will feature five different dining options ranging from Asian to salads to ice cream. An early August opening is the target.

All that being said, casino revenue remains the primary focus. And if things stay on course, June will be the start of a new monthly trend at Ocean — the first of many more $20 million-plus months to come.

But “we still have a lot of work to do before it’s where we want it to be,” Donovan said.

Bill Gelman

About

Bill Gelman is a veteran sports writer based just outside of Philadelphia and not too far from the Jersey Shore. Bill spends time in Atlantic City writing about casino openings and expansions, special events and world championship boxing at Boardwalk Hall. He is now adding NJ sports betting and online gambling to the mix.