Revel owner fights rules that other Atlantic City casinos meet
ATLANTIC CITY — Casino license? Don't need one. Alternative tax payment? I'll pass. Power plant debt? Not my problem. Fees to spruce up the neighborhood? No, thanks.
One thing has been a constant in Glenn Straub's two-year tenure as owner of Atlantic City's former Revel casino — a refusal to follow rules that bind all his would-be competitors.
Even as he blames city and state officials for red tape that has so far prevented him from reopening the star-crossed resort under the new name Ten, Straub has backed his defiance with a seemingly endless pile of cash for court battles, and a relish for confrontation that has so far resulted in an empty building and lots of bills.
Why, he was asked, doesn't he simply do what state agencies say he, and any other casino owner, must do?
"I'd be broke," Straub told The Associated Press. "They're trying to make me do what my predecessors did. That's why they're bankrupt and out of business. They don't know how to not rape you. It's like when you come to New Jersey, you have to take all your clothes off and burn all your money."
Much of what regulators want him to do involves obligations incurred by Revel's former owners that do not apply to him, Straub argues. State officials disagree.
Within the past two weeks, Straub appealed a ruling by the state Casino Control Commission that he needs a casino license in order to reopen Revel, the $2.4 billion resort that he bought for $82 million from bankruptcy court. Straub maintains he does not need a license because he is simply a landlord, leasing part of the premises to Connecticut developer Robert Landino, who will operate the casino and hotel and is applying for a license.
Resorts Casino Hotel owner Morris Bailey had to obtain a casino license, even though he hired an outside company to run the casino.
Landino's company, Centerplan Construction, is suing the city of Hartford, Connecticut, which fired it as a builder on a much-delayed minor-league baseball stadium there. City officials said they contacted the FBI with concerns about Centerplan's performance.
Landino said his company has done nothing wrong and has not been contacted by the FBI. Straub said he is not concerned about Landino's Connecticut dealings.
Straub's lease with Landino lays out a potential exit plan for Straub should New Jersey regulators deem him unsuitable to hold a casino license. It gives him the right to show the property to potential buyers, and gives Landino the right to buy the casino should New Jersey officials reject Straub.
When Straub blamed state regulators for holding up the casino's reopening, Matt Levinson, chairman of the casino commission, shot back that Straub is the one suing the agency and that he is responsible for any delays.
Straub also declared he will not participate in Atlantic City's PILOT, or payment in lieu of taxes, program. That special arrangement with the state requires casinos to make fixed, predictable payments to the city in return for not being allowed to appeal their property tax assessment — something Straub wants to do.
Immediately after taking ownership of Revel, Straub declared he would not pay what he considered exorbitant rates for utility service that Revel's former owners paid to a company that built the resort's power plant, charges that included debt incurred in building the plant. After nearly a year of costly litigation, Straub simply bought the plant to end the dispute.
Last September, he refused to make a $100,000 payment toward a special business improvement fund, telling the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority he would not be "blackmailed" into paying a debt incurred by his predecessor.
He then threatened to sit on the property indefinitely if forced to pay the fee, adding, "Please: Call my bluff."
The agency backed down and deferred the matter; Straub still has not paid the fee.
Follow Wayne Parry at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC
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