Revel, Atlantic City’s biggest exercise in how not to market or run a casino, now has the dubious honor of being the subject of a bankruptcy court auction, but that event is on hold until the middle of next week due to the start of the Jewish New Year today at sunset.
And while casino management says that several bids have already been made on the beleaguered property, the only one that has been made public is from Floridian real estate developer Glenn Straub, who somewhat enigmatically says he wants to turn the defunct casino property into a place where “geniuses” can solve some of the world’s problems.
Maybe they can start with how to not lose several billion dollars on a mismanaged Atlantic City casino, just for one idea that randomly comes to mind.
Straub bid $90 million for the casino that originally cost $2.4 billion to build, so apparently he’s no dummy himself. The property went out of business after only two years of always-in-the-red operations finally became too much to overcome.
Straub says he wants to turn Revel into a university for the intelligentsia, devoted to solving the world’s problems. The idealistic property magnate told Reuters that he wants to attract the brightest minds in the world, who would spend their days ruminating on global issues such as famine, cancer and nuclear waste storage; “curing the world’s hiccups,” as he puts it.
“I want the geniuses of the world to have an opportunity not to be geeks, not to have to grow up in a dormitory room and be geeks. I want them to live a little bit of life, because they are really going to do something for the world,” he said.
Straub, who owns the 22,000-acre Palm Beach Polo and Country Club in Wellington Florida, is the so-called “stalking horse”: the lead bidder, who could be outbid by competitors at the auction when it resumes next week. Pressed further on his vision for the university, Straub said that the ideal university candidate would be “free, white and over 21,” an archaic and politically incorrect way of saying “beholden to no one.” He qualified the statement the next day by stating, “No matter who you are, white, black, whatever it may be, you can have an opportunity.”
When asked whether we was concerned that his chosen academic few may be tempted away from him by large corporations offering big bucks, he explained that, in that case, they would be required to “donate two percent of their incomes for their lifetimes,” to help fund the project. Other than that he did not offer any other indication as to how the university would be financed, although his lawyer has suggested that it could begin “within weeks,” should the deal go through.
Straub’s vision for Revel also includes the construction of a second tower, in accordance with the original architect’s plans, as well as helping Atlantic City develop high-speed rail and ferry links to New York City, and improving the airport. While he would appear to have a personal distaste for casinos, saying that he dislikes the idea of Atlantic City as a casino town, he has called for the construction of a tunnel connecting casinos in the city, in order to help boost casino revenues during harsh winters.
Not everyone remains convinced by Straub’s lofty ideals, however.
“When you start off with these kinds of ideas, to my eyes, it doesn’t give you a whole lot of confidence,” said Democratic Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo. “But this gentlemen, if he ends up buying it, he’s going to have to open those doors, which equates to employment.”
It’s still a big “if.” Straub may be the stalking horse in the auction, but as his lawyer acknowledged this week, there are other bidders in the mix, although they remain anonymous. The deadline to submit a bid has now passed, and the auction will pick up again on Tuesday, September 30. The successful bidder will be confirmed by a bankruptcy court judge at a hearing after that time.