ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) -- Three 8s is a lousy poker hand, and it's an equally inauspicious way to launch a casino.
Yet that's exactly what Revel has to show for itself after three months of operation, ranking 8th out of Atlantic City's 12 casinos in terms of gambling revenue in each of those months.
New Jersey's newest casino took in $14.9 million in June, up $1 million since May, when it took in $13.9 million. In April, its first month of operation, it won $13.4 million.
The $2.4 billion casino resort is being counted on to help rejuvenate the struggling gambling market in Atlantic City, but has gotten off to a decidedly slow start.
But Revel Entertainment CEO Kevin DeSanctis said the resort is doing well in the area of non-gambling revenue, and he's confident Revel's plan is working.
"We have a little bit different business model," DeSanctis told The Associated Press. "Clearly, our gaming revenue has to improve, and it has been. We're continuing to improve, and our non-gaming revenue is doing really, really well. In June it was up more than 25 percent."
Atlantic City's 12 casinos collectively posted a revenue decline of less than 1 percent in June, winning $274.7 million.
That was 0.6 percent less than in June 2011, but was largely the result of a favorable calendar this year, in which June 2012 had two more weekend days than did June 2011.
For the city as a whole, slot machine revenue rose 0.6 percent, to $201.6 million, while table game revenue decreased by 3.7 percent, to $73.1 million.
Including Revel, five casinos posted revenue increases, led by another great month at the Tropicana Casino and Resort, which was up 38.3 percent to $22.2 million. The Atlantic Club, which has routinely struggled in recent years, posted a 13.5 percent increase to $13.6 million as it aggressively targets low-rollers and cost-conscious day trippers and vacationers.
Caesars Atlantic City was up 7.5 percent to $31.8 million, while The Golden Nugget Atlantic City was up 4.3 percent to $11.2 million.
The biggest decline was a whopping 30.7 percent drop at Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, which has been on the market for more than a year without finding a buyer. Its revenue fell to $9 million. Its sister property, the Trump Taj Mahal Casino resort was down 23.4 percent to $25.5 million.
Bally's Atlantic City was down 17.6 percent to $26.7 million, Harrah's Resort Atlantic City was down 13 percent to $33.2 million; Resorts Casino Hotel was down 7 percent to $12 million, and the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa was down 6.4 percent to $53.3 million — which was still $20 million better than its closest competitor.
The Showboat Casino Hotel remained unchanged at $20.5 million.
Tony Rodio, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey, acknowledged the favorable calendar in June, but said Atlantic City's slight growth in slot machine revenue is encouraging; Atlantic City generally makes two-thirds of its casino money from slots.
"It's a big improvement over what we saw in April and May," said Rodio, who is also president of the Tropicana. "It's a step in the right direction, but I don't think we're out of the woods yet."
Atlantic City has seen its casino revenues decline for 5 ½ years, since the onset of casino gambling in Pennsylvania in Nov. 2006.
But Revel remained the biggest story in June, the start of the summer season when Atlantic City's casinos traditionally fare the best. The resort currently has just over 1,350 hotel rooms open; it will eventually have 1,898 when fully open, probably by the end of this year. It averaged 58 percent occupancy in June, up from 47 percent in May.
Nearly 619,000 people visited Revel in June, a 33 percent increase from May. It posted $8.5 million in non-gambling revenue in June, a key part of its business strategy. Restaurant openings in June included Cafe Central by Michael Richard, and retail openings included a Hugo Boss store.
DeSanctis said the first 10 days of July have been much better for Revel, with visitation up 45 percent compared with the first 10 days of June. Gambling revenue is up 75 percent over that same time period, and non-gambling revenue is up 30 percent. The hotel has averaged 80 percent occupancy so far this month.
"It's looking a little better every day, and in July, it's going to be a lot better," DeSanctis said.
One big disappointment so far: continued construction work on the beach in front of Revel has prevented the resort from opening Revel Beach. DeSanctis said a portion of the sand between the Garden Pier and Massachusetts Avenue should be ready to open the first week in August. A daytime beach club Revel had hoped to have up and running still is not ready, and might not be until next summer if it can't be prepared for use much before Labor Day weekend.
Atlantic City tourism officials cited several encouraging statistics from June, including the fact that more than 10.3 million cars used the Pleasantville toll plaza of the Atlantic City Expressway so far this year, an increase of nearly 3 percent from the first half of 2011. The Pleasantville plaza is the closest toll to Atlantic City.
Overnight bus passenger traffic is up nearly 15 percent over that same period.
For the first six months of this year, Atlantic City's casinos won $1.5 billion , which is down 6.5 percent from the same period in 2011. Winnings from slot machines were down 4.4 percent and winnings from table games were down 11.4 percent.
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC
- ATLANTIC CITY