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Mike Donovan

Chief Marketing Officer and Senior Vice President, Ocean Casino Resort

Mike Donovan

The saga of the Revel/Ocean property in Atlantic City took a major upturn earlier this year when Mike Donovan, a former marketing executive at the Tropicana, was hired by the new owners, Luxor Capital, to lead the Ocean marketing team. Donovan has wide experience in Atlantic City and other jurisdictions, and has delivered some tried-and-true formulas to turn around the fortunes of the struggling casino. And it seems to be working, with the property posting the highest gross gaming revenue ever in June. He spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros at Ocean in July.

GGB: What did you find when you first arrived at the property in terms of a marketing plan?

Donovan: Over the last 100 days, we’ve taken the property in a much different direction. When I got here at the beginning of March, the property had historically had good table games business, good non-gaming business, but it lacked slot business, which we all know is the core of every property in Atlantic City.

I saw several things that we were not doing or we were doing poorly. We weren’t communicating with the 1 million-plus people we had in the Revel database. We knew exactly who they were, we knew how much they spent the last time they were here, but we weren’t talking to them. We are now. And we’re talking to them in a very influential way. Before, they were getting weekly offers that were lower than other places in town. Now they’re getting daily offers that are better than anyplace in town.

So we’re combining a value piece with the exceptional product we have here, and people are responding.

What other things did you change?

Just from a physicality standpoint, we saw other improvements we could make. One of the complaints was that it was too big, too cavernous and you can’t find your way around. We installed simple-to-understand wayfinding signs that direct people easily. We put in a new elevator that makes it easier to get from the hotel to the casino, so you can get to the casino much faster. We built a separate promotions area that eases the burden on the main desk area, and made it easy to find. We added kiosks like most other Atlantic City casinos. So, we’ve addressed key deficiencies of the property and brought it up to a level that makes people comfortable.

Ocean has some great meeting and convention space. Is that a focus in the new regime as well?

Yes, and it’s getting easier the longer we’re open. The largest segment of your meetings book a year or two out, and with the uncertainty around the property before, they didn’t know if the place was going to be open that long. But now there’s a lot more certainty.

It’s always been a great setup for meetings with great rooms, accessibility and amenities. And now they have the understanding we’ll be here for a while.

Ocean has also been set up for great entertainment with Ovation Hall and the smaller venues.

How important is that for the property?

Incredibly important. The property is big, so you can definitely see a difference when there’s a major event going on. We’ve had entertainment in Ovation Hall pretty much every weekend since the spring and plan to continue with that for the rest of the year.

We have a great partnership with AEG Live where we’re beginning to get some big-name acts.

Food and beverage has always been an important element to this property. How have you begun to use it?

The property has always had great food and beverage—we need to tell more people about it, but it’s always been there. In some of the surveys we did, however, people complained that it was too expensive. Now we give weekly dining comps so people can come in every week, which softens that blow a little bit. And we’ve added some more casual dining options that are affordable, like a food court that will open soon. We’ve opened up Sky Café on the hotel lobby level, along with a coffee shop. We’ve got a frozen daiquiri bar on that level. So we’re starting to add components for the peak season.

Roger Gros is publisher of Global Gaming Business, the industry's leading gaming trade publication, and all its related publications. Prior to joining Global Gaming Business, Gros was president of Inlet Communications, an independent consulting firm. He was vice president of Casino Journal Publishing Group from 1984-2000, and held virtually every editorial title during his tenure. Gros was editor of Casino Journal, the National Gaming Summary and the Atlantic City Insider, and was the founding editor of Casino Player magazine. He was a co-founder of the American Gaming Summit and the Southern Gaming Summit conferences and trade shows. He is the author of the best-selling book, How to Win at Casino Gambling (Carlton Books, 1995), now in its fourth edition. Gros was named "Businessman of the Year" for 1998 by the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce, and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Gaming Association in 2012.

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