A Brigantine native, Marrandino came back to Atlantic City two years ago after two decades in Nevada, where he developed a reputation as a playboy amateur rocker and one of the industry’s most innovative entertainment executives. Now he’s putting together events like a Jamie Foxx-hosted “Young, Rich & Famous All-White Celebrity Beach Party” for Bally’s (all-white meaning clothes, not skin), and jamming onstage at the resort’s Sammy Hagar-branded beach bar, which opened last year. On busy weekends, the bar packs in a thousand or so sunburned and somewhat intoxicated patrons, many of whom while away half a day gawking at bikini-clad waitresses, enjoying the live music, or playing cornhole, a lawn game usually associated with frat houses. It seems nuts to suggest that something like a beach bar is the key to Atlantic City’s future (not least because beach bars have been tried before). But Marrandino’s efforts are evidence of the fact that execs have given up on the business model of holding customers hostage on the gaming floor.
Farther up the Boardwalk at Resorts, new owner Dennis Gomes is experimenting like crazy. He’s spliced a Boardwalk Empire retro theme (the waitresses are in skimpy flapper dresses; the dealers don green eyeshades) with explicitly sexual offerings such as a nighttime naked circus. Seriously. Gomes has also added a gay nightclub, which might be the first of its kind in any casino anywhere. “We have to be more like Las Vegas and do these kinds of new things,” he says. “It’s not that you’re selling sex. You’re selling sexuality, and sensuality. It’s one of the ways we can be different from the convenience gambling venues.”
The unfinished Revel, though, represents Atlantic City’s biggest post-gaming gambit. As recently as January, the building was a monument to the city’s misfortunes, a mega-resort stalled mid-construction after its financiers bailed. But then Governor Christie promised $261 million in future tax rebates, investors took the leap, and construction resumed. When completed, it will have the requisite huge casino, but the resort dedicates more square footage to meeting rooms—in hopes of luring convention traffic, particularly in the off-season—than it does to slot machines. Developer DeSanctis says it will open with all the amenities of a big Vegas resort, including 12 restaurants, two movie theaters, a spa, 75,000 square feet of retail and two nightclubs.
But it is Revel’s architecture and plans for the neighborhood it inhabits that really bring something new to Atlantic City. Revel- embraces the beach and the Boardwalk with gusto. Its undulating oceanfront facade serves to draw the Boardwalk’s planking almost into the hotel itself. Guests drop their cars off at a valet station with seaside views. A landscaped two-acre deck—with four pools, a spa and cabanas—overlooks the ocean. A sandy patch called “Revel Beach” will be built at the property’s northeastern edge, effectively extending the beach line past the Boardwalk. “Having a casino now is almost like having air-conditioning,” says DeSanctis. “People feel like they can get that anywhere. You need to give them something they can’t get at home.”