ATLANTIC CITY - Revel's new Pearl Lounge takes pains to show it is not just any slots parlor. With its canopy entrance, strung-pearl ceiling design, custom-print glass doors, and red oak floors, exclusivity is what it's all about.
The 3,000-square-foot space just off the main gaming floor is intended as a complement to the casino's Ultra Lounge, a private space for high-end table players.
"We needed this," George Mancuso, vice president of slot operations at Revel, said during a media tour Thursday on the eve of Pearl Lounge's opening. "It gives our marketing team a tool to attract that high-level slots customer that wants his own private space."
In Revel's debut year, slots business was particularly slow for the casino and was among the reasons it recorded several consecutive months of dismal revenue, ranking near the bottom of the dozen gambling halls here.
Lined up through Pearl Lounge are 71 gleaming new slot machines, in denominations ranging from $5 to $100. Players will have their own private cage with a cashier to take care of their needs, their own ATM machine in the corner, and private bathrooms.
Next to the slots is an enclosed, private players' lounge featuring a bar and dining area with leather upholstered walls, granite counters, three LED flat-screen TVs, and a bottle-storage system.
Though anyone can play the slot machines inside Pearl Lounge, only "Beach" level players will be permitted to access the private players' lounge Mondays through Thursdays. The highest-tier players, known as "Pearl" level, will have the lounge to themselves Fridays through Sundays.
Pearl Lounge opens to the public Friday with a party and ribbon-cutting at 7:30 p.m. Interim Revel chief executive Jeffrey Hartmann said it was the first of several new offerings being rolled out as the casino emerges from bankruptcy.
Also being added: designated smoking areas for gamblers; a 24-hour, three-meals-a-day, moderately priced restaurant called Relish; a noodle bar by chef Jose Garces; and a beach bar. All are scheduled to open by Memorial Day weekend, in a bid for Revel to gain a larger share of a fiercely competitive casino market.
"We need our gaming revenue to grow," Hartmann said Thursday. "We are not satisfied with how we've done in this area, and this is the first of a series of steps to reposition the property with our casino guests."
Built at a cost of $2.4 billion, Revel filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy March 25, less than a year after it opened at the northern end of the Boardwalk. The casino's reorganization plan is expected to be approved Monday by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Judith Wizmur.
The judge's ruling will clear the way for Revel to restructure its finances and start rolling out the new offerings.
"Many of Revel's issues were self-induced, exacerbated by unwavering competitive pressures from Pennsylvania and New York," said Christopher Jones, senior gaming and lodging analyst at New York-based Telsey Advisory Group. "The opening of the beach bar was a key component of this property that was never realized last summer, so that should help Revel live up to one of its original promises.
"Adding smoking and lower-priced food venues will just make the property more competitive with operators in Atlantic City that already offer these options," Jones said. "The noodle bar will potentially help attract the lucrative Asian gaming market."
The changes - particularly allowing smoking on the premises - are a reversal of Revel's original business philosophy. When it opened April 2, 2012, Revel became the first fully nonsmoking casino in Atlantic City, and the only one without the traditional buffet.
"We think these are all positive moves, and it should be positive for Revel's slot business," said analyst John Kempf of RBC Capital Markets L.L.C. "However, this is still a competitive environment with a lot of supply, so we think the build will be slow and gradual."
Revel's bankruptcy petition is intended to wipe out nearly $1.3 billion of its $1.5 billion debt through a debt-for-equity swap with its creditors. Management says that having so little debt left, plus a $250 million cash infusion from the exit plan, will enable it to ramp up marketing of the property.
This week, the casino announced it had hired Fine Point Group to oversee its marketing.
"Absolutely, I want to see the casino make it," said Brad Snavely, 49, of Asbury Park, as he played a penny slot machine at Revel on Thursday. "It's the nicest thing that's happened to Atlantic City in a long time. It's helped to improve the Boardwalk and the city."
Snavely and a friend, Charles Palmadesso, 50, also of Asbury Park, had walked past Pearl Lounge earlier and said they liked what they saw. But neither will be able to venture into its players' lounge - they are "Ocean" card holders, the lowest among Revel's three player tiers.
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