Developer Slows Revel Reopening Over New Jersey Licensing Issues

Developer Glen Straub (l.) has criticized New Jersey regulators for requiring him to apply for and obtain a casino license, saying he will slow his planned re-opening of the former Revel casino hotel while the matter plays out. Straub maintains that he will lease the planned casino space to an unnamed operator and will only serve as a landlord for the casino, not run it. New Jersey officials have ruled he still needs a casino license, but did say he could be issued a lower-level license.

Developer Glen Straub seems to have been caught off guard by the fact that New Jersey regulators want him to obtain a casino license before a casino can open at his Atlantic City property, the former Revel casino.

He sharply criticized the state Division of Gaming Enforcement for the ruling and said he is slowing his plans to re-open parts of the hotel. Straub had said that hotel rooms at the property would re-open June 15, but he has yet to receive a building certificate of occupancy and several key building inspections still need to be done.

Under Straub’s plan for the casino, the space would be run by an outside casino operator—he has not named the company—and he feels his Polo North Country Club Inc. would simply be the landlord for the space. That means he feels he should not have to go through the same costly, time-consuming licensing that other casino owners do, he told the Associated Press.

But the state DGE told him he will need a license.

“They have totally abused their discretion,” Straub told the AP. “We’re just a landlord—a vendor, really. Like someone who provides produce. I’m not going to run the casino; why do I need a casino license?”

Straub said he plans to appeal the ruling the state Casino Control Commission. In the meantime, Straub said, he will not immediately move forward with plans to start reopening the hotel and non-gambling attractions right away

Straub said the property also is having problems attaining liquor licenses. In casino properties, the DGE also issues liquor licenses in New Jersey.

“This is just one more example of New Jersey’s anti-business attitude,” Polo North said in a press statement. “What is especially galling is that New Jersey is engaging in this conduct when it has imposed a strict time limit on Atlantic City putting its financial house in order.”

David Rebuck, director of the CGE said the state will consider allowing Straub to obtain a lower-level casino license, but said that Straub will have to obtain some level of license before the casino can reopen.

“We have made a determination that he does need to be licensed,” Rebuck told the AP. “The thought is it might be a lesser level of licensing because of his business plan, but the division cannot make a final determination until his license application is complete.”

The state could determine that Polo North could be licensed as a casino service industry licensee. The company he chooses to run the casino would need to have a casino license, Rebuck said.

But another one of Straub’s plans might run afoul of the DGE as well.

Straub believes a proposed eSports lounge could take Atlantic City in a new direction that along with Nevada could lead to a new eSports industry in the U.S.

A report in shows that New Jersey’s current regulations could allow for some types of eSports betting. But New Jersey regulators also feel that eSports betting doesn’t violate federal prohibitions on actual sports betting, and the state could make a move to legalize audience betting on eSports.

The state’s current casino regulations allow casinos to put on contests that depend largely on a player’s skill. The state’s regulations allow tournaments where players can win a prize. A free throw shooting contest held by Borgata last year is an example.

Officials for the state Division of Gaming Enforcement told the website that the division considers eSports to constitute a contest where the outcome is largely based on participants’ skill.

The state’s rules state that “a casino licensee may conduct a gaming tournament for any game approved by the Division. Gaming tournaments involving games where the outcome depends on the skill of the participant are authorized provided that some element of chance is also part of the game.”

A casino wishing to stage an eSports tournament awarding prizes to players, for example, would have to notify the division and have the tournament approved. The rules, however, also might allow other types of eSports contests.

Division attorney Chuck Kimmel told the website that eSports lounge operators also appear free to offer two-person wagering on eSports slot machines.

“If you wanted to have two machines side by side where you were each playing against each other and taking a rake, we have temporarily adopted regs that would allow that as well,” Kimmel said. “So if you want a racing game or a shooting game and wanted to just install them on the casino floor, and two people come up and play together and each put $10 dollars and the winner gets $18 and the casino takes $2, we could do that right now if anybody wanted to submit it to our slot lab to test.”

However, division spokeswoman Kerry Langan said head-to-head wagering by two players sitting down at a gaming console, such as a PS4 or an XBox One, would not be allowed at this time, because consoles do not meet several requirements to be considered slot machines.

What’s trickier is the idea of audience-based betting on eSports contests. The state’s regulations don’t currently allow that kind of betting, which regulators said would open the state up to betting on all types of contests, from the presidential election to awards shows.

The division has considered the necessary steps to authorize audience wagering, regulators told the website, but has not moved forward with them. However, Kimmel said regulators don’t think eSports betting would violate the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.

The state had been in a long battle to overturn that act and allow traditional sports betting.

eSports is having an easier time in Nevada where sports betting is already legal. Wagering on eSports is already allowed by licensed sportsbook operators without the need for any regulatory amendment or creation.

Nevada already hosts major eSports tournaments and the Downtown Grand in Las Vegas has formally applied to the Nevada Gaming Control Board to offer wagering at its eSports lounge. The state has regulations for approving eSports games and is testing live games in which players can compete and bet against one another.

Meanwhile, city inspectors have continued to make inspections of the Revel’s plumbing, electrical and fire suppression systems for the building’s required certificate of occupancy. Straub had hoped to have 900 hotel rooms and a handful of non-gambling amenities open by June 15, but did not have the certificate.

However, even a temporary certificate of occupancy is complicated, as it needs approval from the state Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, which controls the city’s tourism district.