By WAYNE PARRY, Associated Press
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ (AP) — Owners of Atlantic City’s Ocean Casino Resort named its interim CEO as its permanent chief on Monday, and he quickly set himself and his employees a daunting challenge. : become the best casino in Atlantic City.
Bill Callahan has been promoted to the newly created position of General Manager, the casino’s top executive position, succeeding one of Atlantic City‘s most spectacular failures, former Revel.
But Ocean, which opened in 2018, is one of only two casinos in Atlantic City’s nine-casino market to have increased in-person gaming revenue since 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic hit.
Although satisfied with this success, Callahan is aiming higher.
“Our ultimate goal over the next few years is to become the #1 casino in the market,” he told The Associated Press on Monday. “This property is still in its infancy; there is so much more that he can grow.
That would involve overtaking competitors including Hard Rock, Tropicana and perennial market leader Borgata, where Callahan previously worked before joining Ocean in July 2020 as senior vice president of hospitality. He was promoted to executive vice president of hospitality and gaming in July 2021.
In November 2021, he was named interim CEO after New Jersey regulators approved a deal to sell half of the Ocean Casino to the Ilitch family, which owns professional sports teams, a national pizza chain and a casino in Detroit.
The casino is co-owned by New York hedge fund Luxor Capital Group.
“Bill is a 25-year gaming industry veteran who has done an excellent job since joining the Ocean team,” said Bruce Dall, President of OCRM, LLC, the new entity encompassing owned by Ocean. “He has been integral to improving the guest experience throughout the property, while helping to build the best hospitality team in the business. We are confident in Bill’s ability to drive Ocean forward as we become Atlantic City‘s premier gaming destination.
Revel opened in 2012 and closed after just over two years in operation, massive losses and two bankruptcy filings.
Even the early days of Ocean were touch-and-gos.
“It’s a $2.5 billion asset, and it was managed like a $110 million property,” Callahan said. “When we got here, the place was like, ‘How can we not spend money and just drop by and not close?'”
But under new ownership, it has recovered, seeing its in-person gaming revenue drop from $215 million in 2019 to $306 million last year. Only Hard Rock also increased its in-person revenue during this period, from $324 million to $431 million.
Ocean plans to open 463 upper-floor hotel rooms and suites that were never completed, and a revamped bookmaker this year to follow up on $15 million in recent investment in and around the casino.
In terms of overall gambling revenue, Ocean ranks fourth in Atlantic City in overall gambling revenue.
Follow Wayne Parry on Twitter at @WayneParryAC.
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