Atlantic City's Revel Casino reimagined as elite school

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 22, 2014 6:01 PM

By Daniel Kelley

(Reuters) - A Florida developer who made a $90 million offer for Atlantic City's shuttered Revel Casino wants to use the site to help end world hunger, cancer, and resolve other pressing issues like nuclear waste storage.

Glenn Straub's plan is ambitious as it is high-minded. First, he would add a second tower to the 57-story structure, completing the original vision of the casino-hotel's developers. The businessman, who owns the Palm Beach Polo Golf and Country Club, would then convert the complex into a university where the best and brightest young minds from across the world could work on the big issues of the day.

"We want people who will cure the world of its hiccups," said Straub in an interview, his ideas for Atlantic City spilling out in his rapid-fire manner.

Revel, which cost $2.4 billion to build and opened just two years ago, closed September 2 after failing to draw bids at a bankruptcy auction.

Sure, the globe's largest corporations may eventually lure away some of his students, he conceded, but "we'll make them donate 2 percent of their incomes for their lifetimes," to help fund the project. He did not elaborate or say how the university would be financed otherwise.

His ideal student would be "free, white and over 21," he said, using a politically incorrect way to describe someone with no financial obligations.

Straub's bid, made one week after the property closed, was a ray of sunshine in a town in which three other casinos closed this year as casinos in neighboring states provided more competition. An auction for the property is scheduled for Wednesday.

GAMBLING IMPROVEMENTS

Straub also sees ways to make Atlantic City a more attractive gambling center. He envisions high-speed rail and ferry routes connecting the resort town to New York City, and an improved airport that could draw more vacationers.

He also has called for an underground tunnel to connect casinos in the city, helping protect gaming revenue from declines due to harsh winter weather.

Still, his ideas for the building have some in the city wondering. 

"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, who represents Atlantic City. "But this gentlemen, if he ends up buying it, he's going to have to open those doors, which equates to employment."

Straub's plans stem from the widely held belief that Atlantic City's casino market is saturated and that buyers for the shuttered properties need to find other uses for them.

"Another casino in Atlantic City is not the answer," Straub said.  

(Reporting by Daniel Kelley in Philadelphia; Editing by Frank McGurty and Richard Chang)