There are two ways that a new business makes its way: it either takes its slice out of the pie, or it makes the pie grow. The approach that most of the properties in Atlantic City have taken were the former—slicing the same-sized pie smaller and smaller until those with the smallest slices starved.
If Revel decides to be a “me too” offering to people that are already interested in coming to Atlantic City, it will fail (again). If it takes a novel approach, offering an experience that one cannot get by visiting other AC properties, Sugarhouse, the Meadowlands, or Mohegan Sun, people will come. From what we have seen and heard from Glen Straub over the last year, he seems to be the kind of man to make this happen.
What has worked in Atlantic City
When Borgata opened, it took the approach of expanding the pie. While all of the other casinos clamored for the bus visitor that visited for a few hours and dropped a couple hundred dollars on the slots, Borgata positioned itself as an entertainment destination rather than simply a casino.
- They advertised in markets such as Philadelphia and New York, offering a nearby getaway for city-dwellers that were not Atlantic City regulars.
- It brought hot national acts to perform at its entertainment venues.
- It flawlessly executed its nightlife, placing both Mixx and Murmur among the most profitable nightclubs on the East Coast.
- It built an outdoors music venue in the vein of the outdoors music festivals that have been all of the rage of the last ten years.
Borgata created a destination and focused on attracting people that wanted to have a good time—gambling was only one piece of the puzzle.
People like holding conventions here. It’s central to NY and Philadelphia, AC International is 15 minutes away, and it can be really fun for a person that wants to get away and let loose.
People like to drink on the beach. Bungalow Beach managed to get the South Beach vibe that no other shore town had this past summer, attracting people that were not necessarily A.C. regulars.
What has not worked in Atlantic City
“Bring the kids!”
Family destinations abound at the Jersey Shore. Look at a map, and take your pick between Cape May and LBI—just be sure to skip A.C. People don’t want to take their four-year-olds to a casino in the Inlet. Get over it.
Advertising primarily in and around Atlantic City.
Send direct mail to past visitors and advertise on the Expressway five miles out of town… by the time they see these billboards, they know where they are going. There’s a good chance that you’re wasting your money.
Only focusing on gambling.
People can drive two miles from their houses if they want to drop $150 in a slot machine. You need to offer them something more: a getaway from responsibility, a break from routine, great restaurants, not having to worry about drinking and driving, concerts, a singles scene; wrap it all up in one.
Why Straub is Good for Atlantic City.
If we can say one thing about Glenn Straub, it’s that he is definitely a different kind of owner than anything A.C. has previously seen. The ideas that he has floated—from a university for geniuses, to an indoor water park, to having a high-speed ferry to New York—have reflected a unique way of thinking. It reflects an openness to the sorts of ideas that would not take a slice out of a shrinking pie, but that could make a whole new pie.
Where we go from here
“New Revel’s” success will be determined in the execution. It must:
- hire leadership with fresh ideas. Doing the same old things that A.C. has been doing for the last thirty-five years will not work.
- offer an experience that no competitor offers.
- target new segments and markets that are not being targeted
- drop Atlantic City’s pipe dream of getting families to drive through the hood with their kids to go on vacation.
- be the first A.C. casino to take advantage of what digital analytics can do for a brand.
- create a unique voice and culture of service (see Southwest Airlines). This will involve hiring the right people and treating them right.
Straub seems to be the type of man with the openness of mind to do this, but only time will tell.