Atlantic City

Bruce Deifik, Former Owner of Ocean Resort Casino, Dies in Traffic Accident

Last year, Bruce Deifik helped Atlantic City take a step forward in its effort to emerge from a dark economic period. Earlier this week, the former owner of Ocean Resort Casino lost his life in a traffic accident in Denver. Deifik was 64 years old.

Deifik’s lawyer, Paul O’Gara, told the media that Deifik was driving home from a Colorado Rockies game on Sunday when he was involved in the fatal crash. The Denver Medical Examiner Office said that it was a “single-car, low-speed auto crash,” though the cause of the accident was not immediately known. It is possible, the medical examiner told O’Gara, that Deifik may have had a “medical crisis” while driving, causing him to cross two lanes of traffic and crash into a light pole.

Deifik Revived Revel

Deifik was a Denver-based real estate developer, but he was best known recently for his purchase of the then-shuttered Revel casino in Atlantic City early last year. The Revel was supposed to be the next big thing in the East Coast gambling capital, a shiny, luxury gaming resort, built with a price tag of $2.4 billion. It was supposed to rival the Borgata. It opened in April 2012 and was immediately a financial disaster, closing in early September 2014.

The Revel was not alone in its demise, the third of four Atlantic City casinos to close in 2014. The Atlantic Club shut down in January, the Showboat died in August, and Trump Plaza closed in mid-September. Trump Taj Mahal also closed in October 2016.

But though a couple of those casinos had a future president’s name on them, the Revel was arguably the most notable failure because of how much it cost and how short its lifespan was.

The process of getting Revel sold was also a complete mess. When it was put up for auction in 2014, the only bid that came in by the September 23rd deadline was from Polo North Country Club’s Glen Straub for $90 million. The auction was then delayed for a week and an angered Straub increased his bid to $95.4 million, only to see Revel sold to Brookfield US Holdings for $110 million, which put in its bid in the middle of the night on September 30th. Straub believed he was used as a stalking horse and went on rant after rant, even in court.

In November 2014, Brookfield backed out because bondholders wouldn’t let it redo a deal with ACR Energy Partners, which had taken over the construction of a power plant next door when Revel ran out of money.

In January 2015, a bankruptcy judge approved the sale to Straub, but even that fell through at first. Finally, Straub made a deal with Revel in April 2015 to buy the property for $82 million. He had all sorts of plans for it, none of which ever came to fruition, and he renamed it TEN in September 2017, even though he never reopened the casino.

Bruce Deifik then bought TEN/Revel from Straub in January 2018 for $229 million. Deifik immediately made it known that his intention was to reopen the property, thanking New Jersey and Atlantic City for “their hospitality, thoughtfulness and professionalism.” He also said:

The former Revel property opened at a time when Atlantic City was still in economic recovery and operationally it just did not cater to the customer base for this destination. However, given the extraordinary quality and investment made during its development, the new ‘Ocean’ will represent one of the finest hotel-casino properties in existence today in an improving market that has demonstrated strength and resilience.

And sure enough, Deifik opened the Revel, which he renamed to Ocean Resort Casino, on June 28th, 2018, the same day that the former Trump Taj Mahal was reopened as Hard Rock Atlantic City. It was an exciting day for the ocean town, as two of its formerly shuttered casinos were now back open. That weekend was a time for celebration.

Deifik Forced to Sell After One Year

Unfortunately, Deifik’s investment was not a profitable one, as Ocean Resort Casino lost money. Just a year after he bought it, Luxor Capital Group, already a major equity holder in the property, injected another $70 million into it and took a controlling stake in Ocean. Control has still not be fully transferred to Luxor, but it is expected to be completed soon. The name of the property was also changed this week to Ocean Casino Resort to emphasize the gaming entertainment.

“We are saddened to learn that Bruce Deifik, former owner of Ocean Resort Casino, has passed away,” said Diane Spiers, a spokeswoman for Ocean, in a statement to The Press of Atlantic City. “The Ocean family is grateful for Bruce having the vision to reopen this beautiful oceanfront property and employing over 3,000 members of our community. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

Bruce Deifik was laid to rest today in Denver.

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