After operating for only two years, the Revel Casino Hotel has closed down, part of a trend that will reportedly shutter a third of Atlantic City's big gambling halls by the end of September. It cost $2.4 billion to build the Revel facility.
"It's a tragedy," massage therapist Lori Bacum, who worked at the resort's spa, tells NJ.com. "There were some warnings, but none of us thought it would happen. We felt so safe, because this was the place that was going to take (the city) to a new level."
From the AP:
"By mid-September, four of Atlantic City's 12 casinos will have closed, but none will be a costlier failure than Revel.
"It started construction just before the Great Recession hit and had to take on so much debt it never could turn a profit.
"The Showboat closed on Sunday, Trump Plaza is closing Sept. 16, and the Atlantic Club closed in January."
The closures come as casinos in Atlantic City and surrounding areas struggle to attract customers in a region that's becoming saturated with gambling options — as NPR's David Greene reports for today's Morning Edition.
The arrival of new casinos in cities such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh - and Baltimore, where Maryland's fifth casino recently opened — is giving gamblers more options. And that makes it harder for any one town to attract customers from miles around.
"Pennsylvania is a terrific example," Suzette Parmley of The Philadelphia Inquirer tells David. She says the casinos are expected to bring money pouring into resources for senior citizens and boosting tax revenue.
"From 2012 to 2013, it was booming - billions of dollars coming into Pennsylvania," Parmley says. But now, she adds, "Pennsylvania has already flattened out; it's actually on a slight decrease this year in revenue, from last year. It's still making a lot, but already the trajectory is going downward because you have Maryland in the mix now, you have Ohio in the mix."
In Atlantic City, Revel opened in April of 2012; its owners twice sought bankruptcy protection. The last hotel guests left Monday. And by Tuesday morning, workers had removed the resort's name and put up a yellow chain to block access.
"At the end of the month, some 6,500 jobs will have been lost" in Atlantic City, David says.
As CBS News reports, Revel's unique approach of emphasizing its hotel qualities seemed to backfire:
"The idea behind Revel was to open a totally different resort, a seaside pleasure palace that just happened to have a casino as one of its features. That included Atlantic City's only total smoking ban, which alienated many gamblers; the lack of a buffet and daily bus trips to and from the casino; and the absence of a players' club. By the time those decisions were reversed, it was already too late. High room and restaurant prices hurt, too."
Infertility treatment is a numbers game in some respects: How many treatments will it take to conceive a child? And how much can you afford?
Even as insurance plans are modestly improving their coverage of such treatments, clinics and others are coming up with creative ways to cover the costs to help would-be parents reduce their risk for procedures that can run tens of thousands of dollars. Some even offer a money-back guarantee if patients don't conceive, while one online program lets people pool some funding.
Shady Grove Fertility, a large center with sites in Maryland, eastern Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., has a number of options to help people afford infertility treatment. The center pioneered a "shared-risk" program for in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment years ago that offered a 100 percent refund if a couple didn't have a baby. Now the center offers a similar option for couples who use donor eggs to conceive. Other fertility centers offer their own versions.
Both Shady Grove shared-risk programs allow couples to try up to six cycles of IVF or donor eggs for a flat fee. If they don't have a baby, they get the full amount back; couples can also stop at any point in the process and get a full refund. The program costs twice as much as a single cycle — $20,000 for shared-risk IVF and $30,000 for shared-risk egg donor.
"In reality, patients who get a baby on the first cycle are subsidizing those who don't get a baby," says Michael Levy, president and IVF director at Shady Grove. "We see this as an opportunity to give patients security regarding the financial risk that they face."
Shared-risk and other financing options are popular in part because health insurance coverage for infertility treatment, while slowly improving, is still sparse. Fifteen states require insurers to cover infertility treatment to varying degrees, according to Resolve, an infertility advocacy group.
Among employers with more than 500 workers, 65 percent cover a specialist evaluation, 41 percent cover drug therapy and 27 percent cover in vitro fertilization, according to human resources consultant Mercer's 2013 employer benefits survey. Thirty-two percent of large companies don't cover infertility services at all.
There are other ways to manage the cost of infertility treatment. In addition to shared-risk programs, many fertility clinics offer other discounts and financing options to help couples afford treatment. Other companies also offer financing and/or infertility insurance to help cover the costs for couples who are working with a surrogate to have a baby, for example, or for IVF treatments.
Glow is one of the most recent companies to help address the financial uncertainties around infertility and treatment. The company, which is best known for an app that helps women track ovulation and other pregnancy-related health data, started Glow First last August for couples worried about infertility.
Participants pay $50 monthly for up to 10 months. The money is pooled with contributions from people who also entered the pool that month. At the end of 10 months, those who haven't become pregnant split the pot of money; Glow will pay their share to an accredited infertility clinic once they submit their bills for fertility testing or other services. The company does not take a cut, according to the Glow website, but there are no refunds for participants who change their minds.
The first group that began contributing in October 2013 has just ended. Roughly 50 people participated, according to the company. The payout to those who didn't become pregnant was $1,800.
"This relatively minimal contribution will help to offset those downstream and very high costs" of fertility testing and treatment, says Jennifer Tye, Glow's head of marketing and partnerships.
A unique band with a sound that's hard to pin down, alt-J makes music that's electronic but somewhat folky; it's got elements of dub but isn't exactly danceable. At a time when it's difficult for musicians to set themselves apart, alt-J has created a truly fresh, unpredictable sound.
An Awesome Wave, the band's 2012 debut, won a well-deserved Mercury Prize and spawned appearances at Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Coachella and the Glastonbury Festival in 2013. So how does the British band face a potential sophomore slump? It's simply gone and made another beautiful and strange record that sounds like alt-J and nobody else. Join NPR Music and WFUV for a Live First Listen to This Is All Yours on Tuesday, Sept. 2 at 9 p.m.
The song title "Jackie and Wilson" is a playful nod, of course, to the great R&B singer Jackie Wilson. And don't worry — Hozier, the 24-year-old Irish soul singer and guitarist, has the grace and the backbeat to make it work.
Andrew Hozier-Byrne has already released two hit-filled EPs, and on Oct. 7, he'll finally release his first album. A version of this song will be on that record, but in the meantime, you can watch Hozier perform it live with his band in the studio.
When asked to elaborate about the song title, Hozier wrote us an email to explain his love for the great Jackie Wilson, who died 6 years before Hozier was born:
"He's a big influence for me, he's fantastic. I think Elvis was the white Jackie Wilson, rather than any other way 'round. I suppose the song is about being lost. There's sometimes a recurring theme of looking from the outside in and idealising some idea of somebody or something as a cure for oneself. It's also me trying to enjoy writing something more fun, playing something more fun."
I particularly love the payoff line in this song: "We'll name our children / Jackie and Wilson / Raise them on rhythm and blues."
We've had Hozier play a Tiny Desk Concert here at NPR, and it's another nice peek into his heartfelt live performance. He's about to start a tour and many of the shows are already sold out. If you can make it to a concert, I'd say do it.
The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.
- A new Haruki Murakami book is coming out in English in December. Murakami's just-released Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage has topped The New York Times' hardcover fiction bestseller lists and reportedly inspired some Londoners to wait in line overnight to meet Murakami at a book signing. His next novel, the 96-page The Strange Library, tells the story of a boy who stops at his local library and encounters an old man who holds him captive and forces him to read books, planning to eat his brain in order to absorb his knowledge. With his fellow captives, a girl with some unusual talents and a sheep-man, the boy tries to escape. It will be translated from Japanese by Ted Goossen and published by Knopf.
- An unpublished early chapter of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which features disobedient boys being sent to a fudge-pounding room, has been printed in The Guardian, as NPR's Krishnadev Calamur noted yesterday. In the chapter, boys by the names of Wilbur Rice and Tommy Troutbeck pay insufficient heed to Willy Wonka's warning not to ride on a wagon down a mountain of fudge, and are transported to the ominously named Pounding And Cutting Room. "In there," Wonka writes, "the rough fudge gets tipped out of the waggons into the mouth of a huge machine. The machine then pounds it against the floor until it is all nice and smooth and thin. After that, a whole lot of knives come down and go chop chop chop, cutting it up into neat little squares, ready for the shops." A worker on the mountain of fudge - a proto-Oompa Loompa- sings, "Eight little children - such charming little chicks. But two of them said 'Nuts to you,' and then there were six." The Guardian says that the chapter was originally "deemed too wild, subversive and insufficiently moral" to be published.
- Eleanor Catton, who won last year's Man Booker Prize with her novel The Luminaries, will create a grant designed to give writers "time to read." She announced the grant while accepting the people's choice and best fiction prizes at the New Zealand Post Book Awards. Catton said, "Writers are readers first; indeed our love of reading is what unites us above all else. If our reading culture in New Zealand is dynamic, diverse, and informed, our writing culture will be too."
- Henry Holt has acquired the rights to a new biography of Robin Williams, to be written by New York Times culture reporter Dave Itzkoff, who interviewed him a number of times. "Robin Williams was a cultural hero of mine, and in the encounters and interactions I was able to share with him, he was always gentle and generous, humane and thoughtful and hilarious," Itzkoff said in a press release. Henry Holt hasn't announced the book's title or publication date.
- For The Atlantic, Adrienne LaFrance profiles a guy who used to dig through John Updike's trash: "[Paul] Moran has kept thousands of pieces of Updike's garbage — a trove that he says includes photographs, discarded drafts of stories, canceled checks, White House invitations, Christmas cards, love letters, floppy disks, a Mickey Mouse flip book, and a pair of brown tasseled loafers. It is a collection he calls 'the other John Updike archive,' an alternative to the official collection of Updike's papers maintained by Harvard's Houghton Library. The phrase doubles as the name of the disjointed blog he writes, and it raises fundamental questions about celebrity, privacy, and who ultimately determines the value and scope of an artist's legacy."
- And in other Charlie and the Chocolate Factory news: In an essay about a jacket design for the book, The New Yorker's Margaret Talbot veers into a discussion of the never-ending will-reading-YA-turn-our-brains-to-mush debate: "That adults are reading young-adult books does not necessarily augur badly for the state of fiction or intellectual life. What does seem discouraging is that this literary debate is one of the liveliest going on these days."