ATLANTIC CITY — Bruce Deifik was close to tears Thursday as he reflected on an arduous journey that began with a $10 million investment on an unseen property in an unfamiliar city.
“Now the work truly starts,” said Deifik, owner and chairman of Ocean Resort Casino, after the Casino Control Commission granted the new owner of the former Revel Casino Hotel a license, exactly one week before the property is scheduled to open to the public.
Deifik said that after a “very hard 13 months,” to finally be granted a casino license was a “dream come true for myself and my entire family.”
The casino is scheduled to open at 1 p.m. June 28.
The licensure came with a list of conditions laid out by state regulators at the Division of Gaming Enforcement. The 26 conditions address the property’s financial resources and its relationship with one of its lenders, JPMorgan Chase, in an effort to ensure Ocean Resort does not fall victim to the economic challenges that doomed its predecessor.
Casino Control Commission Chairman James Plousis said he believed the conditions to be “reasonable.”
Commissioner Alisa Cooper said that prior to the start of the two-day hearing, she had “very serious concerns,” and based on the number of recommendations, “the Division of Gaming Enforcement felt the same way.”
“But after listening to the very extensive, and personal, testimony of the past two days, my concerns have been eased,” Cooper said.
Deifik, a real estate developer from Colorado, and the property’s chief financial officer, Alan Greenstein, testified Wednesday on their vision for the luxury casino hotel, the group’s finances and changes made to the property. On Thursday, Ocean Resort CEO Frank Leone, who previously worked at Caesars Atlantic City and Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, testified on the resort’s marketing strategy and plans to attract, and keep, guests.
“I can assure you that we’re going to speak loudly and clearly to the core casino audience,” Leone said when discussing how Ocean Resort would differ from the property’s prior occupant. “Our promise is to have an unwavering commitment to exceeding guests’ expectations.”
Leone said Ocean Resort would allow smoking — identified as the biggest complaint from focus groups of former Revel guests, according to his testimony — and offer single-night stays, incorporate a market-competitive player rewards program and a buffet, which will open “late 2018 or early 2019.”
Other changes included in the nearly $50 million renovation are a reconfigured casino floor, the removal of the Boardwalk wall that was an impediment to direct casino access and two-foot glass safety panels around the escalators, he said.
Asked whether Ocean Resort would be ready to open June 28, Leone responded, “Absolutely. We’re looking forward to it.”
Ocean Resort will employ close to 3,300 people. Of the team members already hired and working on the property, Leone said almost 25 percent were Atlantic City residents and more than 80 percent had casino experience.
Deifik said interacting with the new employees has been rewarding.
“To walk up and down the halls and have people come up to you and say, ‘Thank you for the job, thank you for the opportunity, thank you for believing in us’ is a big deal,” Deifik said.
Deifik purchased the 6.3 million-square foot casino hotel from Florida developer Glenn Straub for $200 million on Jan. 4. Straub acquired the property out of bankruptcy for $82 million in 2015. Revel closed in 2014 after two years of operation because of insurmountable debt and revenue shortcomings.
Ocean Resort has a total of 1,399 rooms open and Deifik has pledged to complete another 600, which are located on 12 unfinished floors.
The 130,000-square-foot casino floor will feature almost 2,000 slot machines, more than 100 table games and eight poker tables.
A number of high-profile DJs will be at the property’s day/nightclub, HQ2, Deifik said Wednesday.
The property’s 7,500-square-foot sports book, which will be operated by William Hill US, will not immediately be open, Leone said Thursday. However, sports betting will be available June 28 at a temporary sports book until the final facility is completed in about six weeks.
Ocean Resort has also applied for an internet gaming license with partner GAN, which runs BetFair online casino gaming for Golden Nugget Atlantic City, and expects to offer the option beginning July 1.
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City is scheduled to open at noon June 28 at the site of the former Trump Taj Mahal. The CCC approved its gaming license May 9.
Elsewhere in the South Inlet, on Thursday, it was announced that The Showboat, the former casino between Ocean Resort and Hard Rock that has been operating as a non-gambling hotel since July 2016, will open all 1,331 of its hotel rooms starting June 28. It had been operating with just 852 available rooms.
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