Don’t call it a comeback, Atlantic City has been here for years. From the famed Boardwalk Empire days of the 1920s to its reinvention as a gambling hub beginning with a referendum in 1976, ‘America’s Favorite Playground’ has a long history of interesting characters and strong tourism industries. Today, however, the city is struggling to regain its former prestige with the recent redevelopment of Las Vegas and the legalization of gambling in nearby states eating a portion of the city’s market share. A strong dependence on gaming revenue, as well as a lack of serious investors, has put Atlantic City into a steady decline since the economic recession of the previous decade. However, Florida real-estate developer Glenn Straub has a plan to bring the city back in a big way and the capital needed to make it happen.
Straub recently completed an acquisition of Revel Hotel and Casino, a $2.4 billion, 47-story hotel and casino complex which was originally opened on April 2, 2012, before closing on September 2, 2014, after filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy for the second time, for $95.4 million, but that’s just the beginning of the developer’s plans when it comes to Atlantic City. Straub has announced intentions for a $500 million plan to turn the city into a thriving, family-friendly tourist destination.
Initial outlines of the reinvigoration project point towards amenities including the area’s largest waterpark, a Ferris wheel, a man-made mountain for skiers and snowboarders and a professional soccer franchise. Big plans don’t stop there, however, as Straub has also announced a plan to expand Atlantic’s City’s airport and open a university designed to appeal to students with an interest in solving global problems, such as disease and nuclear-waste disposal.
For longtime observers of Atlantic City, the plans seem ambitious, to say the least. Joseph Weinart, an analyst with consulting firm Spectrum Gaming Group, called the plans, “Audacious,” before pointing to previous failures by investors to bring the tourist destination back to its former prominence in the region. The city currently has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, but it still has eight large casinos currently open to gamblers, as well as several smaller operations.
Revel stands in infamy as one of the most spectacular real-estate failures to come out of the recent financial crisis. After purchasing the property in 2006 and being unable to find financing partners, Morgan Stanley abandoned the project in 2010, writing off nearly $1.2 billion in the process. Revel was opened two years later under the control of new partners, but the success was short-lived.
The news for the city may not be as bleak, however. The first nine months of 2014 featured a rise in gross operating profits for casinos of over 11.5% from the previous year, and hotel occupancy rates rose 1.8 percent, according to reports from New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement. Finding out what’s in store for the historical tourist location over the next few years has observers excited, if hesitant. “When there were 12 thriving casinos, plans like [Straub’s] would have been seen as crazy,” says Weinert. “Nowadays, crazy might be what Atlantic City needs.”
In the meantime you can of course find your favorite games at Silver Oak Casino anytime of the day, month of year: