Danny Drake

ATLANTIC CITY — After a disappointing first month of revenue, Revel has quickly joined with the rest of the casinos in town by offering an array of promotional freebies aimed at the gambling crowd.

Free parking, free slot play and a T-shirt giveaway are among the perks Revel is dangling as part of its formal grand opening celebration over the Memorial Day weekend.

One analyst characterized the giveaways as a complete turnaround in Revel’s marketing strategy — one that shows Revel CEO Kevin DeSanctis is adjusting to “a fast and brutally changing Atlantic City market.”

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“Kevin has proven he can change directions faster than (Chicago Bears great) Walter Payton in his prime,” said Tony Marino, a consulting analyst with the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.

DeSanctis, however, insists Revel is not switching its marketing strategy. He said Revel will continue focusing on the four groups crucial for the casino’s success — conventioneers, leisure travelers, gamblers and walk-in customers.

“We market to each segment differently,” DeSanctis said.

In its print ads and television commercials, the $2.4 billion Revel has carefully crafted its image as a resort first and casino second. Marino argued the new gambling giveaways suggest Revel may be ready to reposition itself as more of a casino.

“All of a sudden, Revel is promising casino giveaways and free parking and so forth — a total change in direction from the DeSanctis marketing strategy where it was a resort, not a casino,” Marino said.

Revel had surprisingly low gambling revenue of $13.4 million in April, its first month of operation. Although Revel placed just eighth among the city’s 12 casinos for April’s revenue, another casino analyst predicted Revel will rise closer to the top during the summer.

“I’m expecting by July and August, they should be in the $30 million to $40 million range. I would expect Revel to be second place to Borgata or maybe third to Harrah’s,” said Steve Norton, a private casino consultant and former senior executive at Resorts Casino Hotel.

Norton said it would be “unfair” to think that the $13.4 million in gambling revenue was a true indicator of Revel’s future business levels. He noted that Revel did not have all of its hotel rooms and non-gambling attractions ready during the start-up phase. Revel characterized its first eight weeks of operation as a preview period building up to the official Memorial Day weekend grand opening.

“The preview period was meant to allow us to tighten up the operation in all areas, including marketing,” DeSanctis said.

Revel struggled to integrate its operating systems during the first month, including technology glitches that hampered its ability to offer free slot play. Now that those problems have been fixed, Revel has begun offering free slot play, free parking, complimentary hotel rooms and other giveaways that are key to its casino loyalty promotions, DeSanctis said.

“Having had the opportunity to fully develop and implement the operational and technology systems was of paramount importance as we set the stage for the upcoming resort premiere on Memorial Day weekend,” DeSanctis said. “To clarify, we could not start our gaming-segment marketing until certain operational aspects were in place.”

Marino speculated that DeSanctis will not hesitate to make wholesale changes if business lags. He said Revel might be able to take pointers from the market-leading Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, another luxury resort.

“Borgata has proven you can successfully mix the elegant with the mundane — celebrity chefs and a food court,” Marino said. “Kevin will adjust to offer what this market wants. It’s just a matter of time before Revel announces a buffet restaurant.”

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