GGB: We know about your time leading the Greenspun Group, but give us a little of your casino background.
Deifik: I’ve lived 30 years in and around Las Vegas. When I joined the Greenspun Group, they were actually exiting their involvement with gaming because of the downturn in the economy. But I continued to be involved. Over eight or nine years, I picked up the Silver Nugget with some partners. We bought the Lucky Club, out on the 15 near the Speedway. So I have two unrestricted gaming licenses and I’ve also learned through other investments in smaller casinos.
What was it that first appealed to you about Ocean?
Walking the property for the first time, I had some idea of what I was going to see from reports I had heard. I of course knew of the problems here, but I saw through that. I also saw a very heavy lift to open the property. The property was in immaculate shape—the power never had gone off. So when you take the building at $2.45 billion, add the central power plant at $157 million and a couple hundred million in furniture, fixtures and equipment, you’re approaching a $3 billion write-off. So I felt that on a price-per-pound basis, here was not only one of the greatest assets in Atlantic City, but also one of the great assets in North America.
How did you address some of the problems that existed at Revel that you knew needed to change?
First, we went through the posts on social media and began a list based on the comments people had made. We put together focus groups to determine the issues we needed to address. Non-smoking. If you were a smoker, there was no place for you at Revel. We fixed that. Two-night minimum stay? That was silly when the average stay was 1.2 to 1.4 nights. We fixed that. The wayfinding? The signage they had was poor. We made an investment in better signage and ambassadors showing people around. The layout of the casino floor was a problem. We fixed that by opening things up and making it easy to get around and added at least 50 percent new machines. The main escalator was scary. We invested several hundred thousand and put wings on the escalators so now everyone feels safe. It’s made a huge difference. And we got rid of the prison wall on the Boardwalk. Now we have a grand staircase with a sign. That is symbolic of what we’ve done at Ocean.
How about the operational issues? They didn’t really go after the gambler.
My attitude is we ripped the rear-view mirror out. So when we opened the doors on June 28, it was like we had never been opened. With our great CEO Frank Leone, we created what we think is one of the greatest four-tier loyalty programs in the industry. If you’re a member of our rewards system, we built a beautiful players lounge. The comps are coming. What they didn’t do before we’re going to do now.
Why the name Ocean?
That was my wife. People were telling us we had to get big consulting firms to create a catchy name and brand. But my wife looked at me and said, “Let’s just call it Ocean,” and that was it! We wanted to just call it “Ocean” by itself, but Carnival Cruise Lines was protecting that, so it became Ocean Resort Casino.