Atlantic City's Revel Casino opened in April of 2012. Less than a year later, it had already filed for Chapter 11 protection. Revel still operates today as a "debtor in possession," but casino workers are bracing themselves for a possible change of ownership. The Seminole tribe of Florida has been eying the building for some time now. Recent paperwork filed with New Jersey casino regulators suggests that the tribe is hoping to open a new Hard Rock casino somewhere in Atlantic City. Rumor suggests that Revel could be the proposed site for that casino.
Seminole Gambling Business History
The Seminole Tribe of Florida prides itself on keeping up with the times, including the ever-changing gambling landscape of America. In 1979, it was the first tribe to own and operate a high-stakes bingo hall. Twenty-five years later, in 2004, it acquired two Hard Rock hotel/casino facilities in Florida. After operating the facilities for several years, the Seminole acquired exclusive rights to the Hard Rock brand, including all Hard Rock restaurants, casinos, hotels, and entertainment halls. The Hard Rock logo can be seen at 175 business locations across 55 countries. It is a thriving and respected business.
This isn't the first time the Seminole have considered setting up shop in Atlantic City. In 2011, the tribe joined a trial program in which salon-style “mini” casinos of fewer than 500 hotel rooms were sketched out for the gambling town. For a price of about $450 million, the Seminole theorized that they could open a music-themed hotel/casino with just over 200 rooms. The business would slowly expand, eventually adding another 600 hotel rooms. The Seminole backed out before construction on the project began, however, citing unfavorable “market conditions.” Even as they backed away from this opportunity, the tribe indicated that Atlantic City could still be a site for future Hard Rock endeavors.
Hard Rock Faces Competition From Caesars Entertainment
In January of 2014, rumors surfaced that Caesars Entertainment also wanted to purchase the Revel building. NJ Senator Jim Whelan publicly shunned the idea, saying it would be too risky for Atlantic City to let so much of its economic stability ride on the success or failure of one company. According to Whelan, state law forbids companies to own multiple gambling facilities in a single region if such ownership would upset the harmony and flow of local businesses. If Caesars had a monopoly on Atlantic City gambling and the company went down, that could spell trouble not just for Caesars, but for all of New Jersey.
For Caesars to get a license for the Revel building, it would first need to receive approval from the NJ Casino Control Commission. In light of Whelan's legal objections, that could prove to be difficult, considering that Caesars Entertainment Corporation already owns the Bally's, Showboat Hotel and Casino, and Atlantic Club in Atlantic City. No further developments have been reported from Caesars at this time.
Non-Union Workers Brace Themselves for Ownership Change
Although most casino workers in Atlantic City belong to a union, the workers at Revel do not. Because of this, many are bracing themselves for a potential job loss if/when the casino changes hands. Earlier this month, members of the Local 54 faction of the Unite-HERE union paraded into Revel on behalf of the casino's employees to air their concerns.
Union Members Lobby for Non-Union Casino Workers at Revel
Revel employees don't belong to Unite-HERE and therefore don't pay union dues, but Local 54 members have contacted the State Investment Council and asked them to advocate for Revel employees anyway. The State Investment Council is a faction of the New Jersey Department of Treasury. Its general purpose is to oversee policies that relate to the investment of state funds. The union hopes the council will have some pull because they have the power to invest pension funds in various state companies. In fact, the council recently invested $300 million in a hedge fund that owns one third of the Revel property.
Previous Union Concern: Too Many Part-Time Employees
This isn't the first time Revel has taken heat from members of organized labor. Unite-HERE teamed up against Revel last September for a battle against its use of part-time employees. According to the union, almost one third of all Revel employees worked less than 40 hours per week at the beginning of August 2013. Other Atlantic City casinos, said the union officials, boast a part-time employment rate much lower than Revel.
Unite-HERE officials hoped the part-time issue would spark public controversy because, not so long ago, Revel actually received a $2.6 million grant from taxpayers. Part-time employment often puts a strain on public welfare resources and, ultimately, takes money out of the pockets of taxpayers. This trend is unfortunately not new in the United States; part-time employment is growing more common every day. One reason employers often give for this is Obama's Affordable Care Act. Under Obamacare, businesses of over 50 employees must pay a $2,000 fine for every full-time worker who does not receive a health insurance option. To minimize the $2,000 fine risk, some employers have reduced their number of full-time employees.
Revel: Not the "Rebirth" Chris Christie Hoped For
Governor Chris Christie once framed Revel as the symbol for New Jersey's "rebirth." At a looming 47 stories and 1,400 hotel rooms, the struggling business has proven itself, so far, to be a beacon of failure, not success. New ownership could breathe new life into the building, giving the city the economic lift it needs. If Revel isn't sold, experts say the ailing business will be forced to file for bankruptcy a second time.