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Ocean Resort Casino Owner Promises to ‘Surprise the World'

The owner of Atlantic City's Ocean Resort Casinos promised to "surprise the world'' when the former Revel casino reopens next week.

And the surprises began Wednesday when the casino's executives unveiled some optimistic financial projections that would see it do better than established casinos including Tropicana, Harrah's and Caesars, at levels Revel could only have dreamed.

Bruce Deifik said Wednesday his team has fixed what customers didn't like about Revel, and is ready to show it off.

All he needs now is a casino license.

In testimony before the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, Deifik said he has $40 million in cash on hand to operate the business, and is ready to go.

"When we open a week from Thursday, we will surprise the world as to how we treat our customers and what we have to offer,'' he said. "We listened very carefully to what mattered to people. It is completely different. We changed the entire casino floor, the sight lines. With the sports book in the middle of the casino floor, it's a different place.''

Ocean Resort has to prove to state regulators that its executives have good character and integrity, adequate financial resources, business ability and casino experience. The commission heard Ocean Resort's request for a casino license, and will vote on the request Thursday.

The casino's chief financial officer testified Ocean Resort expects to gain about 10.5 percent of the Atlantic City casino market, increasing to nearly 12 percent by fiscal year 2021. Alan Greenstein, who did the same job for Revel, told the commission the casino projects making $127 million in non-gambling revenue, about twice what Revel did, accounting for 34 percent of its net revenue. That's nearly double the average reported by Tropicana, Harrah's and Caesars, according to state regulators.

Figures submitted to the state Division of Gaming Enforcement project the casino will generate $384.6 million in net revenue and a gross operating profit of $81.1 million for fiscal year 2019. Greenstein predicted the casino will take in $292 million in overall gambling revenue in its first year.

"We believe our numbers are very achievable,'' he said.

Revel, which cost $2.4 billion to build, shut down in September 2014 after a little over two years of operation, never having come close to making a profit. Deifik bought it in January for $200 million from Glenn Straub, who failed to reopen it in three years after buying it from bankruptcy court.

Despite having sold the casino, Straub is not totally out of the picture: Ocean Resort will owe him $1.50 for each car parked in the casino's garage starting in its third year, increasing to $4 per car in its 10th year of operation. Ocean Resort projects that will average $975,000 a year by fiscal year 2021.

Both Ocean Resort and the Hard Rock will open their doors on June 28.

Deifik's family currently owns 89 percent of the casino, and will never own less than 54 percent of it, he testified. Financiers include J.P. Morgan Chase and Luxor Capital Group, which has the option to eventually own as much as 34 percent of the business.

He revealed that comedian and actor Jamie Foxx will serve as a host for the casino's opening weekend.

Deifik swung big, but missed, in an attempt to land a top-flight concert performer.

"We went to Bruce Springsteen's agents and said, 'We'd sure love to be able to have a free concert on the beach, no charge,''' Deifik said. "I assumed if you wrote a $1 million check to his charity'' that would get Springsteen to agree, Deifik said.

"They came back and said, '$5 million,''' he said.

He said he has spent $35 million on renovations since taking control of the property in January. One symbolically important project involves knocking down the stone wall that sealed off the casino from the Boardwalk. Now patrons will be able to walk up small staircase onto the property, and be met by ambassadors offering to walk them to wherever they are headed on the property.

Deifik also revealed he plans to finish 12 unfinished floors of hotel rooms within the first year that would bring the total to 1,950 hotel rooms.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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