Ex-Revel casino is new owner's biggest trouble and joy

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Since Glenn Straub bought Atlantic City's former Revel casino for about 4 cents on the dollar in April, it has brought him nothing but trouble.

And he's fine with that.

"Give me even more problems," the Florida developer said. "We get up in the morning to take care of problems. That's what we do."

Later this month, he'll have two more. Winter is fast approaching and Revel still has no contract with a utility supplier for heat and hot water to keep pipes from freezing and bursting. Straub has submitted plans to city officials to use boilers for winter heat, but ACR Energy Partners, the utility company with which he has been sparring since before buying the casino, is trying to block him from connecting boilers to equipment ACR says it owns inside Revel.

"Despite having had many months to contract for a long-term energy supply and arrange for the necessary heat to prevent the pipes in the Revel complex from freezing, Polo North has waited until the eve of winter to concoct a temporary heating plan that both unequivocally uses ACR's equipment without authorization and threatens that equipment," the utility wrote in a court filing.

And that's not all: Bank of New York Mellon is asking a judge to order Straub's Polo North Country Club to pay $1 million in back electric bills to ACR.

Both matters will be the subject of federal court hearings on Nov. 24.

So far, Straub has sunk well over $100 million into Revel, with very little to show for it.

The heating situation is just one of many headaches with which Straub has had to deal since buying the 3-year-old resort, which cost $2.4 billion to build, out of bankruptcy court for $82 million. He has considered re-opening it in one of a half-dozen possible incarnations including an indoor water park, a medical tourism resort, an equestrian facility, and even a "genius academy" that would bring together the world's top minds to tackle society's problems. Earlier this month, he suggested housing Syrian refugees there.

Just two days after he took the keys, ACR, the building's sole utility supplier, cut off service in the absence of a contract for future service.

The city began fining him for not having fire safety systems powered, and the state ordered ACR to keep limited power flowing to power alarms and elevators, along with a red warning light atop the 47-story building to prevent airplanes from flying into it.

A judge blessed an interim arrangement in which Straub was to put money into an escrow account to pay for the limited power, but the bank says he is $1 million behind on those payments. (Straub says it's because ACR won't bill him only for the power he uses and not for power flowing to the utility's own equipment.)

While Straub's Polo North Country Club and ACR sue each other, ACR's lender is foreclosing on it.

Straub is waging separate legal battles over taxes, sewage fees and whether former business tenants at Revel will be permitted to stay there if it ever re-opens. And the city recently fined Straub for dismissing unionized engineers who supervised fire safety systems.

Straub also lost out on a bid to acquire another shuttered casino: the former Showboat casino next door. Philadelphia developer Bart Blatstein swooped in after Straub's deal to buy it from Stockton University fell through.


Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC