New Jersey Casino Authority Approves Tax Credits for Showboat Atlantic City Water Park

Posted on: December 29, 2020, 10:21h. 

Last updated on: December 29, 2020, 10:35h.

The New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) has signed off on designating a $100 million indoor water park proposal at the Showboat Hotel in Atlantic City as an entertainment retail district.

New Jersey Showboat Atlantic City water park
A New Jersey casino agency has approved tax breaks for the Showboat in Atlantic City should it move forward with an indoor water park on vacant land next to the current structure. (Image: The Business Journals)

The distinction is critical to the former casino’s ambitions to bring Atlantic City a nongaming attraction that will appeal to families year-round. As an entertainment retail district project, the water park will qualify for up to $2.5 million in annual sales tax breaks for 20 years. Construction costs will also be reduced through CRDA assistance.

“Atlantic City’s best days are ahead of it,” Showboat owner Bart Blatstein told the Associated Press. “I read the press sometimes and I scratch my head to the point that I get a bald spot on it. I don’t think they realize Atlantic City’s potential.”

Blatstein believes making Atlantic City more family-friendly — something that has long been the case in Las Vegas — is essential to its future.

Qualifying Projects

Before moving forward with the water park vision, Blatstein considered building a standalone casino adjacent to his Showboat Hotel on what’s currently outdoor sand volleyball courts. The present Showboat structure is prohibited from housing a casino because of a deed restriction Caesars Entertainment placed on the property when it sold it in 2014.

The CRDA, which is allocated various fees from Atlantic City’s nine casinos, uses the funds to invest in projects that will benefit the lives of all New Jersey residents. Projects can become eligible for CRDA financial assistance in numerous ways.

“Generally, the funds should benefit the public at large and those of low and moderate income in particular,” the CRDA explained. “Projects may be deemed eligible for CRDA financing if the funds are used to further promote the tourist industry through the creation or improvement of recreation and entertainment facilities, including arts or cultural centers, historic sites or landmarks, or sports centers.”

A water park might be a bit of a stretch, but the CRDA nonetheless reckoned the attraction eligible for tax breaks.

This is a true game-changer,” declared Atlantic City Marty Small (D) following Tuesday’s CRDA meeting. “This will take our city to the next level and give us a much-needed family attraction.

“If you build it, they will come,” the mayor added, a reference to the 1989 baseball film, Field of Dreams. The quote is commonly misspoken, as the line is actually, “If you build it, he will come” — “he” being the late, great baseball player, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson.

Gambling Not Out of Question

The AP’s Wayne Parry asked Blatstein following the CRDA approval whether he has fully folded on seeking to bring gambling back to the Showboat.

I am 100 percent focused on the water park and other amenities,” he responded, without directly answering the question.

Construction plans submitted to the CRDA reveal that the indoor water park will measure approximately 100,000 square feet. Attractions are to include water slides, pools, and lazy rivers, plus food and beverage outlets, party rooms, retail stands, and lounges.

No groundbreaking date has yet been announced.