Revel gets Atlantic City casino license

ATLANTIC CITY -- Revel, the $2.4 billion Atlantic City hotel-casino that almost didn't get built, cleared its final major hurdle on Monday.

The New Jersey Casino Control Commission approved a casino license for the resort, which will become the city's 12th casino when it opens Monday.

Gambling is only part of the resort; it also has a luxurious spa, 14 restaurants, 10 pools, and a theater with 5,050 seats that will host Beyoncé on Memorial Day weekend.

"We've convinced people for 30 years that if you're not a gambler, you can't come here," Revel's President and CEO Kevin DeSanctis said. "We want to convince them you can. We'd love to have you."

Casino commission Chairwoman Linda Kassekert said Revel will be the kind of game-changer in Atlantic City that the Borgata was in 2003.

"We are placing a great deal of confidence in you, Mr. DeSanctis, and your team at Revel," she said. "Your ability to market this property and draw new people to come and experience what Atlantic City has to offer will play an enormous role in the future success of the gaming industry here."

The project ran out of money during the recession, but resumed last year with the help of some state tax incentives. Original backer Morgan Stanley pulled out of the project and took a $1.2 billion loss on it. DeSanctis said much of the remaining financing the project obtained came from J.P. Morgan.

Revel, which stands at the extreme northern end of the Boardwalk, next to the Showboat, is the first casino to open since its main rival, the Borgata, debuted in 2003. With its angular slanted roof and its giant white light-up ball atop the 47-story structure -- the second-tallest in New Jersey at 710 feet -- Revel is already a dramatic presence in the nation's second-largest gambling market.

Revel is being counted on to help revive the struggling seaside gambling resort, which soon will be surpassed by Pennsylvania as the nation's second-largest gambling market after Las Vegas.

Michael Garrity, Revel's chief investment officer and a former Morgan Stanley executive, said the resort's business model differs from its competitors.

"We're fundamentally betting on the demographic underpinning of the northeastern United States," he said. "It's not just about Atlantic City."

DeSanctis said Revel will not compete hard for the convenience gambler, who comes to town, plays for an hour or two, then leaves.

"That's not a customer we can survive on," he said. "It's just not going to happen. We need an overnight stay. We're looking for two nights."