This whole process began blindly.
Bruce Deifik had never been to Atlantic City. He knew little about the owner of a property along the Boardwalk. But he knew business.
Deifik knew the area was following a downward economic and tourism trend. He knew there was still a chance for Atlantic City to rally. And he made it his mission to be part of that revitalization.
After Thursday’s decision by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission to grant Ocean Resort Casino a casino license just a week before the resort’s grand opening, Deifik is on the threshold of playing a key role in Atlantic City’s rebirth.
And it all began with blind hope.
Deifik takes a flier on property
Deifik’s resume sparkles with success in the development industry.
The founder, president and CEO of Integrated Properties, Inc., Deifik has been in the industry since 1990, handling property acquisitions, development, and management. His company boasts 103 commercial properties in five states, and he has had his hand in real estate with a Nevada company.
But Deifik had never stepped foot in Atlantic City before. That did not stop him from taking a flier on a property along the Boardwalk that had a less-than-stellar history of casinos. He took over for a line of management that was equally disappointing.
Certainly, Deifik was one to do his homework before acquiring a property. Yet even he noted during CCC testimony this week that he “rolled all of our dice” in making a “handshake” deal to take on the former Revel last year.
Putting his own cash in the game
Heading up the group AC Ocean Walk LLC, Deifik put down a $10 million nonrefundable deposit on the property. He borrowed $129 million against his own equity to complete the purchase from Glenn Straub, who also received $2 million per month for building upkeep.
Deifik poured in $70 million of his own money, received $122.5 million in investments from Luxor Capital, and had $40 million in cash reserves.
And all of this came before Deifik had set foot in Atlantic City.
During his testimony, Deifik choked up with emotion about the strain placed on him and his family after diving into the new Ocean Resort property.
“It’s been much harder,” Deifik said while tearing up. “It’s taken a lot to get here.”
A bit of Deifik’s past comes to light…
Considering the littered history of failed casinos on the property, the CCC naturally questioned Deifik’s past.
After all, Revel-turned-TEN became buried in debt or went bankrupt during the two casinos’ short histories in Atlantic City. The most-recent owner, Straub, never even opened the doors of TEN and consistently questioned the necessity of needing any sort of licensure.
Even during Deifik’s acquisition of the property, Straub did not recognize Deifik as a buyer.
So during this week’s testimony, Deifik had to share a darker time of past investing. He was a majority member of a failed mixed martial arts association, World Series of Fighting. Last fall, a complaint was filed against Deifik, along with other proprietors of the WSOF. The complainted alleges a breach of contract and civil RICO among 10 total causes of action.
… but concerns are eased
Alisa Cooper, a commissioner of the CCC, said that she had “very serious concerns” — as did the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement — heading into the special hearing.
“But,” she said, “after listening to the very extensive, and personal, testimony of the past two days, my concerns have been eased.”
Deifik testified that he met Straub only twice, quipping “more than I needed to.” He took over the property and helped it get “100 percent paid up” on PILOT payments that were not made by Straub.
To help Deifik’s case, in an unusual move, DGE director David Rebuck pointed out that the DGE constructed a “thorough and comprehensive” report on Ocean Resort Casino.
As a result, the CCC on Thursday granted Ocean Resort a casino license with 26 conditions. Those conditions address Ocean Resort Casino’s financial resources to ensure the casino does not buckle beneath economic challenges like its predecessors did.
‘We will surprise the world’
A week before its debut on the Boardwalk, Ocean Resort Casino finally landed its casino license. Even with questions posed regarding the wisdom of opening the same day as Hard Rock Atlantic City, Deifik stood firmly behind the opening date he had set months ago.
“I’m a huge believer,” Deifik said. “I changed my life to be here in Atlantic City. We will surprise the world.”
He has much of his own money on the line for a property that has been plagued by economic and financial woes for years. He benefits from several investors, but by no means is Deifik backed by brand-name casino companies, such as Hard Rock or Borgata with MGM.
Yet Ocean Resort is ready to hit the ground running. The casino has partnered with GAN for internet gaming and expects the NJ online casino to roll out July 1. There also will be sports betting, with British bookmaker William Hill running the show.
And while Ocean Resort’s sportsbook lounge is under construction for the next six weeks, the resort plans to have a temporary booth for wagers. Sports betting will be offered as soon as the casino opens.
Ocean Resort is just a week away from opening but already Deifik said he is thinking about expansion. Deifik, who owns two small casinos in Nevada, said he was exploring cross-promotion with a Las Vegas partner.
“We have an incredible opportunity to turn Ocean Resort into one of the greatest properties in the world,” Deifik said. “Not just in Atlantic City, but in the world.”