None of the parties interested in purchasing Revel have plans to shut down the casino, Revel President Scott Kreeger said Thursday.
In his first public comments since Atlantic City’s newest casino announced it was pursuing a possible sale last year, Kreeger said he’s spoken with about 30 potential buyers representing “nearly every viable gaming operator in the country.” The group has been narrowed down and a deal is expected before the end of the year, but Kreeger would not identify any of the parties still involved in the process.
The casino president issued a statement Thursday morning, responding in part to a campaign led by Revel Casino Hotel employees and casino union Local 54 of UNITE-HERE. The group has asked for a fair process to unionize, citing the need for job protection as the casino's owners consider options, including a sale, joint venture or a second bankruptcy.
“I have never had discussions with anyone in this process about a closure,” Kreeger said Thursday in a phone interview with The Press of Atlantic City. “Any speculation as to a potential bidder or what they would do with this property is absolutely premature, yet there’s all this rhetoric flying around.”
Revel has struggled financially since its April 2012 opening and emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy last May. Since then, the casino has seen revenue improvements following changes including adding affordable dining options and allowing smoking at the once smoke-free property.
Speaking to recent employee demonstrations seeking the ability to unionize, Kreeger said the casino is not blocking employees who wish to do so.
“The disconnect is in the process. It’s not up to me as the president of the property to decide whether or not they should be unionized,” Kreeger said. “I’m not sure what UNITE-HERE would like me to do other than to remain neutral.”
Revel is the only non-union casino in Atlantic City. When the casino opened, Local 54, along with Teamsters Local 331 and United Auto Workers Region 9, attempted to pressure the casino into negotiating union contracts but was unsuccessful. At the time, the property was led by then-CEO Kevin DeSanctis. Kreeger took over as president in October.
The Revel Union Committee supported by Local 54 has said it wants the casino to allow an organizing drive. In that process, workers sign pledge cards, and if more than half of the employees pledge, the union moves forward. During the process, both sides+ agree to remain neutral.
“I will remain neutral, but there’s a difference between neutrality and proper statement of the facts,” Kreeger said. “I am compelled, when I hear misinformation and rhetoric, to set the record straight.”
Kreeger said he believes misinformation is circulating about a $261 million state tax reimbursement plan that helped allow construction to resume on the once-stalled project. To date, Revel has not generated enough revenue to access those reimbursements.
It was unclear what the union committee's next step might be. On Thursday, a group of 50 Atlantic City casino workers from Revel and Local 54 traveled to the Chatham, Morris County-based offices of Revel’s largest shareholder, Chatham Asset Management. The group again demanded job protection, saying the workers have received no direct response from Revel management to their requests.
“Since Revel wouldn’t provide us with the answers we need, we came here today to demand answers from Chatham,” Revel steward Ronnie Downing said in a statement. “We can’t wait until after a sale is announced to find out if we are going to keep our jobs and be able to provide for our families.”
Local 54 spokesman Ben Begleiter said the union would not issue any separate statement on Kreeger’s comments Thursday.
Local 54 has called on Revel and the state to protect the jobs of the casino's 3,000 employees, not only from a potential shutdown but also from any disruption. Local 54 President Bob McDevitt has said he believes one of the interested buyers, Hard Rock International, may shut down the property temporarily for renovations before reopening it.
Kreeger said the statements are speculative, adding he doesn’t believe it would make financial sense to temporarily lose a customer base.
“There’s one thing that can ensure job security, and that’s economic prosperity,” Kreeger said. “For other special interests to say, ‘We’ll save your jobs,’ well, if that were the case, those 1,600 people at Atlantic Club wouldn’t have lost their jobs.”
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