Revel dogs

Suzanne and Eddie Obal, of Monroe Township, Middlesex County, brought their Jack Russell terriers Amber and Joey with them Saturday to Revel.

Suzanne and Eddie Obal, the owners of two Jack Russell terriers named Amber and Joey, began ticking off some of the places their dogs have accompanied them to over the years.

"They have been to Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky and Chicago," Eddie Obal said.

"And Pittsburgh and Florida and ... everywhere," his wife, Suzanne, continued. "We went to Pittsburgh for a game, but they didn't go in the stadium. But they did travel with us there."

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Amber and Joey's latest stop is Atlantic City, at the $2.4 billion Revel megaresort.

Tails wagging and lapping up the attention showered on them by Revel's customers, the dogs strutted into the hotel lobby Saturday and made themselves at home.

Just in time for the big Memorial Day holiday weekend, the casino has thrown out the doggie welcome mat as part of its new "Ruff It at Revel" program. Revel's evolving marketing strategy is targeting customers who also want to bring along their four-legged companions.

"I think it makes good business sense," explained Jeffrey Hartmann, Revel's interim chief executive officer. "Most pet owners treat their pets like children. They want to take them along when they travel."

Revel, which has just emerged from bankruptcy after a challenging first year of operation, is tweaking its marketing programs to boost business. Attracting pet-loving guests fits in with that strategy.

Revel now becomes the second Atlantic City casino to go pet-friendly. Showboat Casino Hotel began allowing dogs on the property in 2011 amid applause from canine owners. Both Showboat and Revel are responding to a growing trend in the travel industry.

Given the chance, 51 percent of U.S. pet owners said they would bring their pets on every trip they took, according to a 2012 survey by the American Automobile Association and Best Western International Inc., one of the world's largest hotel chains. Among the pet owners surveyed, 95 percent said finding lodging that accepts animals is crucial to travel planning.

Suzanne and Eddie Obal, of Monroe Township, Middlesex County, stressed that finding pet-friendly hotels is at the top of their list while making travel plans.

"Anytime we go someplace, it's at a pet-friendly hotel," Eddie Obal said. "If it's not pet friendly, we don't go there."

The Obals were the first guests to book a dog-friendly room at Revel. They arrived on Saturday, but other dog owners began checking in on Friday for the start of the holiday weekend, Revel spokeswoman Kristen Weisz said.

Revel charges a $50 per night fee for pet-friendly rooms. Under the rules, dogs must weigh no more than 30 pounds and there is a maximum of two per room.

"Money's not an issue when it comes to our dogs," Eddie Obal said. "Considering the money we'll spend for drinks, eating and gambling, the dog fee is not hard at all."

Revel has set aside 10 pet-friendly rooms, so space is limited. Weisz noted that dogs will not be allowed on the casino floor, in the restaurants, in the spa and in other public spaces. They are, however, permitted in the hotel lobby.

Canine guests will receive some pooch pampering, including gourmet dog treats baked in house by the casino's executive pastry chef. A Ruff It at Revel amenity kit features a plush dog bed, a dog bowl and mat, and a "Dog in Room" hanger for the hotel room door.

Dog owners will have exclusive access to a covered area, dubbed "Bark Avenue," to take their dogs for walks and give the animals a bathroom break. The dog area is on the 12th floor of the parking garage, one level above the hotel lobby.

Contact Donald Wittkowski:


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