Revel, Atlantic City’s spectacularly ambitious $2.5 billion casino and hotel, finally went under this morning at 5 a.m., leaving some 3,100 casino employees without a job, and Betty without a place to solicit johns. “This is usually a good place to find guys,” the self-described “personal entertainer” told me as she roamed Revel’s deserted slot machines and card tables shortly after midnight. “I took a guy for $1,900 here last week, an older guy, he really liked me.”
Betty doesn’t look a day over 30, has a broad smile that touches the sides of her brown hair just where the blonde dye kicks in, and says she’s from Las Vegas, “born and raised.” She works there too, but comes to AC several times a year to find additional clients.
“I can’t really come back to Atlantic City now. It’s just Harrah’s, Borgata, and Caesars, and I can’t work those places every night because people will recognize me too easy,” she says. “It’s sad.”
Companionship wasn’t the only scarce amenity on Revel’s last day. Patrons were hard-pressed to find a paper towel, a bite to eat, or even a stiff drink, which is what a man named Victor needed after losing $2,000 in five minutes at one of the few blackjack tables still dealing.
Victor was the kind of customer Revel needed as its gaming revenues languished at the bottom of all the casino earnings in town [PDF]; a big spender quick to swipe his Revel rewards card, which he offered to the manager as he settled into his seat (“I’ll scan it honey, but you know it don’t matter anymore.”). While the dealer began counting out another $1,000 in chips, Victor tugged at his silver Lacoste shirt and took his Maui Jim shades off his head, his face twisted into an impeccably tanned grimace.
What was our dealer, Mihaela, going to do after her shift? Did she have a job?
“I’m on to the next stage in life, baby. Can we get a waitress over here?” Mihaela yelled. A pit boss immediately appeared.
“I’m trying, but usually I see 14 walking down the steps for work," the pit boss said. "Today I saw two. That means there were 12 call-outs. There’s not a waitress in the building.”
Revel's depleted booze reserves (Gothamist)
Humor prevails (Gothamist)
A loyal Beach Clubber (Gothamist)
Meanwhile, Revel HQ Beach Club was doing brisk business, despite a $60 cover charge.
“$60? I thought you said $6.00!” I told the bouncer after he checked my ID and led me down a side path so he could speak to me privately.
“Nah, it’s $60, but I could do it for $40.”
I shook my head. “I just can’t swing that, sorry.”
As I was walking out, I heard a “Yo!” and the bouncer beckoned me over.
“Just have fun man,” he said, as he stamped a beach ball onto my wrist.
A happy couple (Gothamist)
Last hurrah (Gothamist)
Revel's demise has been partly attributed to its location at the very far end of the boardwalk, but several managers of the restaurants and bars that leased space inside the swank new hotel said they turned a profit, especially Revel HQ Beach Club.
“All the amenities here made good money,” one vendor said, begging me not to print her name because she worked for a prominent Philadelphia restaurant group. “It was a good ride while it lasted, but that’s the risk of renting space in a casino. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Charles and Michael, two employees in their mid-twenties, were handing out sets of plastic measuring cups, the last perk for loyal Revel visitors, if an underwhelming one.
“People keep asking me for these bikes they were promised a month or two ago in the mail,” Michael said. “I don’t think anyone’s going to see a bike.”
Charles described himself as a “day one” employee.
“I saw Beyonce every night when she came here at the opening, and it was packed. Now look at it,” he said. “It’s like it usually is in winter time. They just did a really bad job marketing it.”
One woman came up to collect her two bundles of plastic (“The boss said to give everyone two, so everyone gets two,” Michael explained). “What are you guys gonna do until this place gets bought?” she asked hopefully.
This seemed to be a foregone conclusion for many. Rumors that MGM would purchase the casino’s exquisite corpse for pennies (potential buyers balked at a $250 million asking price early in August) were on everyone’s lips.
“MGM?” a woman blurted to the bar in the casino’s Schiller’s-meets-speakeasy, Village Whiskey. “I had thought you said Eminem! Let’s make him buy the casino!” she laughed, while the bartender politely giggled and poured complimentary tastes of Johnny Walker Blue for the last few patrons.
The casino floor at Bally's around 11 p.m. last night (Gothamist)
Revel's casino floor at roughly the same time (Gothamist)
Charles and Michael planned on going back to school or taking jobs. Others aren’t so certain.
“I’m 62 years old, who is going to hire me?” Ravi Jain wondered, rubbing his shaved head. “I don’t have anything lined up and I don’t know what I’m going to do. There's 8,000 people who are gonna need jobs!"
Jain has lived in Atlantic City for 20 years, and dealt cards for 18 of them. He last worked at the Hilton, and when that closed, found a job at Revel.
Asked what the city needed to do to get back on its feet, he replied without hesitation, “They need to make a more family experience.” Jain added, “And they need to clean up Pacific Avenue. I’m a daily commuter, I ride the Jitney every day, and it’s a very bad experience, very bad.”
Jain said he wasn’t planning on moving. “I love it here, this is what I want to do, this is what I’m good at, dealing cards.” He faces dwindling prospects: The Showboat, Revel's closest neighbor, closed on Sunday, and the Trump Plaza is expected to shut down within the next two weeks.
A treacherous move (Gothamist)
Warm goodbyes (Gothamist)
Upstairs, the employees of Ivan Kane’s Royal Jelly Burlesque Club were in a celebratory mood. One dancer miscalculated her maneuver on the pole and slid down with a violent thud. Applause and cheers greeted her when she stood up.
At around 1 a.m., sirens and strobe lights interrupted the party. Someone had pulled the fire alarm. The music was cut, but the employees remained, taking bittersweet selfies and begging for more liquor. Pit bosses ordered the chips covered, dealers exchanged tearful hugs, and the last gamblers shuffled down the escalator and out of the casino.