ATLANTIC CITY - As the final guests checked out of the Revel Casino Hotel on Monday morning, some said they were convinced that the $2.4 billion bankrupt property would reopen under a new owner.
"I don't think it's going to stay closed," said Paul Hergen, 42, who, with his wife and 3-year-old daughter, was enjoying Revel's two-acre landscaped patio and its wide views of the Atlantic Ocean.
"I think it's the most amazing property there's ever been in Atlantic City," said Hergen, of Greenwich, Conn., who said he has been coming to Atlantic City since he was 18.
Hergen and other hotel guests were scheduled to check out by 11 a.m. Monday. The casino was supposed to continue operating until 6 a.m. Tuesday, but early Sunday evening only a smattering of gamblers remained on the floor.
Off the casino floor, loyal gamblers were collecting a final gift from Revel: an eight-piece melamine bowl set, including measuring cups. One couple walked away with a menu from Amada restaurant signed by the chefs.
The closure of Revel, which opened in April 2012 and employed 2,814 in July, follows the end of casino operations on Sunday at Showboat after 27 years. Trump Plaza is scheduled to close Sept. 16, bringing total job losses to about 5,700 for the three casinos. All are victims of the proliferation of casinos in Pennsylvania and other neighboring states since 2006.
But in its short time of operation, Revel won some diehard fans.
Three friends from New York, for example, regulars who stayed overnight at Revel at least once a month, were having fun taking pictures of each other on one of the long escalators that lead up to the hotel lobby on the 11th floor.
Jayne Lord, of the Bronx, and Lucille Alexander, of West Chester County, N.Y., wore T-shirts that said "RIP My Beloved Revel." On the back there was a campy comic-book figure of a woman crying and saying, "My Revel is gone."
Friend Robert Lorenzo said Revel grew on him. "The more I came here, the more I loved it," said Lorenzo, also of the Bronx.
Despite their deep affection for Revel, which they praised for its wide-open spaces and modern design, the three friends had ready explanations for what went wrong.
"I think it started out badly," said Alexander.
The refusal to provide complimentary rooms - or comps - for regular gamblers in the beginning, the no-smoking policy, the absence of a buffet, the focus exclusively on high-end stores, and the lack of bus services that drop off large numbers of gamblers at other casinos are among the factors that contributed to Revel's bad start, said Alexander and her friends.
Those missteps, compounded by opening during a weak economic recovery, showed up quickly in Revel's financial results.
Revel's backers, led by industry veteran Kevin DeSanctis, projected that Revel would be more profitable than the Borgata in its first full year, 2013, according to licensing documents.
Instead, Revel logged a gross operating loss of $130.2 million that year, while the Borgata earned $121.6 million. Since opening, Revel has lost a total of $290.2 million, according to its reports to the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement. More than $2 billion in debt has been wiped out, making Revel one of the biggest financial disasters in the history of the U.S. casino industry.
While they hold out hope that Revel will reopen, Alexander and Lord said they plan to switch their Atlantic City visits to the Golden Nugget, in part because the rooms there have been remodeled recently and remind them of those at Revel. Plus, Golden Nugget upgraded their club card.
Still, Alexander said she will sorely miss Revel. "The employees here up to the last day have been wonderful," she said.
Hearing that wouldn't surprise Joan Cooper, who has worked as a dealer at Revel since it opened and started her career in the industry as a cocktail waitress at Steve Wynn's Golden Nugget when it opened in Atlantic City in 1980.
"They might have done a lot of things wrong here, but they hired the best people," Cooper said Sunday night at her table on the casino floor. Cooper said she'll probably leave Atlantic City for Las Vegas, where she worked for part of her career and where her son lives.
Hergen and his wife, Christine, said they haven't decided where they will stay in Atlantic City now that Revel is closed.
"There's nothing like it," Christine Hergen said.
BY THE NUMBERS
Number of Revel employees in July.
Job losses from Showboat, Revel, and Trump Plaza.
Amount Revel has lost since opening
in April 2012.