ATLANTIC CITY — Revel’s crowd overwhelmed the 6.4-million square-feet megaresort within hours of its sunrise opening Monday, swarming the upper-level outdoor decks and trailing tour guides in attentive packs.
“I found out it was opening at 6:30 a.m. and I said, we gotta be here,” said Bao Ho, a 25-year-old cop from Irvington, Essex County. “We’ve seen it build from the ground up.”
Casinos typically aren’t overrun at noon on Mondays, nor do they attract so many people under the age of 55 at that time — at least not in Atlantic City. But Ho and others at Revel on Monday said the new resort is different — in a good way — than other local gambling properties.
“I think this is gorgeous, stunning — like Vegas-style hotel grandeur,” 38-year-old Lisa Viglio said. “It’s like Borgata, but it’s on the Boardwalk: all the grandeur and splendor, but it’s on the beach.”
Viglio, a nurse visiting from St. John’s, Fla., is originally from Lyndhurst, Bergen County, and has long visited Atlantic City once or twice every year.
She said she can see why the new casino appeals to Ho and others his age.
“I could see … a young, hip demographic here. This is cool. Everywhere you look, there are places to sit down and have a drink,” said Viglio, gesturing to modern furniture scattered just inside glass doors overlooking the ocean from the resort’s fifth floor.
Revel’s opening-day clientele very clearly met hopes of attracting a younger demographic. And they were here overnight — visiting from other properties where they had rooms — instead of the day-trippers that have traditionally dominated the local market.
Ultimately, Revel also wants to attract people from outside New Jersey, New York or Pennsylvania who don’t otherwise visit the city, yet most guests interviewed by The Press of Atlantic City on Monday visit the resort at least a couple times every year from the tri-state area.
Brian Tyrrell, associate professor of Hospitality and Tourism Management Studies at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, expects the “upscale” new spot to achieve its desired mix of guests.
"I look at the (entertainment) booked, and the acts are younger — Maroon 5, Beyonce — and designed to attract a younger crowd. And the product they're putting out there is going to draw the that younger demographic, 25-to-55. Not necessarily to the exclusion of seniors, but there's more to do for the younger set that transcends just gaming and provides that total package, that total experience," Tyrrell said Monday.
Monday was the first day of a partial opening — just three of 14 restaurants served food — that will build until the grand opening Memorial Day weekend.
Within hours of the opening, young professionals agreed Revel will become the go-to destination for their demographic.
“People my age, and, like 25, 26, are looking for a party environment, and I think this place is definitely going to provide that,” said Frank Palmisano, 22. “They’re going to attract people who want a higher class experience.”
The design of the structure alone goes a long way toward creating that with an emphasis on open access and ocean views Palmisano said is long overdue.
Palmisano spoke as she stood beside a swimming pool on the outdoor deck five floors above some of Atlantic City’s most iconic views: the ocean, Boardwalk and Steel Pier, more than a century old and home to amusements that at one time included the diving horse attraction.
“This is somewhere you would take a significant other to impress them. Look at the view,” Ho said, opening his arms to the Atlantic Ocean stretching before him.
Other local gambling properties do not take advantage of the Atlantic Ocean.
The industry typically keeps gamblers focused on betting by minimizing daylight, clocks and other reminders of life off the casino floor. However, sunlight is seemingly inescapable within much of Revel’s space.
It’s also the first nonsmoking casino in Atlantic City — something that guests said appeals to them.
“I think it’s annoying when you’re trying to play blackjack with people blowing smoke in your face,” Palmisano said.
Older patrons said the same.
Eddie Donohue, 53, of Long Island, N.Y. said the nonsmoking aspect of the property will make the experience more enjoyable.
"If someone near me is smoking, I don't mind, but I enjoy the atmosphere more without it — and my family will be happy about it," Donohue said. "I think it will be a benefit in today's market."
Donohue, a construction manager, noted the smaller details that also makes Revel different from other casinos.
"I notice more objects hanging from the ceilings, more (varied) use of fabrics. It appears to be a little more open than other casinos. Some others have roped-off sections you have to navigate, and this seems to allow you to walk more where you choose to," he said.
Donohue, like others at Revel on opening day, said the new resort most closely resembled the Las Vegas casinos he's visited.
"I wouldn't say (Revel) blew me away, but it's well above my expectations and is a refreshing atmosphere," he said.
The lobby also is on the 11th floor, five above the casino; unlike other Atlantic City casinos that have both on the same level, usually the first or second.
Guests can actually bypass in-person check-in using kiosks that look like giant wooden ATMs at first glance. With a wood base, white front and curved design, the kiosks dispense keys to registered guests.
Guests will notice digital signs showing how many parking garage spaces are available on each floor, a feature likely to minimize the time spent searching for a place to park and offered in Atlantic City only by Revel — at least for now.
“If wanted to gamble just to gamble, I could go to Pennsylvania, 20 minutes from my house,” Palmisano said. “If you lose (gambling at Revel), you have 12 other options and a Boardwalk. I think this provides a lot more fun.”
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