Showboat Atlantic City Pitches $100M Water Park, Democratic Committee Pleads with Gov. Murphy to Reopen Casinos

Posted on: May 28, 2020, 10:40h. 

Last updated on: May 28, 2020, 11:16h.

Showboat Atlantic City, a nongaming property sitting between Ocean Casino and Hard Rock along with Boardwalk, has presented the state with a plan to construct a $100 million indoor water park.

Showboat Atlantic City casinos New Jersey
The owner of Showboat Atlantic City wants to construct an indoor water park on what’s currently a parking lot and sand volleyball courts. (Image: Press of Atlantic City)

Philadelphia real estate developer Bart Blatstein says Atlantic City needs to become a more family-friendly destination. Since acquiring Showboat from Stockton University in January of 2016 for $23 million, Blatstein has marketed the former casino property as the go-to destination for those wishing to visit the beach town without being inundated with the sounds of ringing slot machines and cigarette smoke.

Blatstein believes he has a vision that will lure in new visitors – a $100 million indoor water park.

Atlantic City does not have a family market,” Blatstein told the AP this week. “This will open up a whole new market that doesn’t exist.”

Blatstein wants to construct the large attraction between his Showboat and the neighboring Ocean Casino. Blatstein owns the land, which is currently beach volleyball courts and a large parking lot.

It’s at least the fourth time an indoor water park has been proposed along the Atlantic City Boardwalk. Two previous attempts targeting the vacant Atlantic Club were never realized, and in 2015, then-Revel owner Glenn Straub mulled such a water attraction before selling the property that is today Ocean Casino.

State Assistance

Blatstein appeared this week before the New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) seeking financial assistance for the indoor water park by way of tax credits.

He wants the area to be designated as an entertainment retail district, would could qualify the project for annual sales tax rebates of up to $2.5 million. The water park could also qualify for other tax breaks, including on construction materials.

The CRDA is funded through nightly room and parking fees at casino hotels, as well as a 1.25 percent tax on gross gaming revenue (GGR). The CRDA is designed to assist private companies in developing projects that “attract visitors to Atlantic City by presenting world-class entertainment.”

Blatstein has been mulling an effort to return gambling to the Showboat, which hasn’t taken place since Caesars closed the casino and resort in August of 2014. It would be no easy feat, as Caesars, seeking to reduce competition at the time, placed a lien on the property that prevents it from reopening as a casino.

Last November, Blatstein gained approval to divide the Boardwalk property into new lots of record. Some saw Blatstein rezoning the adjacent vacant land as perhaps a way to build a standalone casino on the volleyball courts that would allow Showboat guests to gamble.

July 4 Reopening

All nine Atlantic City casinos have been closed since March 16 on Gov. Phil Murphy’s (D) orders. Atlantic County Democratic Committee Chairman Michael Suleiman is pleading with the governor to allow them to reopen in time for the all-important Independence Day holiday weekend.

We run the real risk of having one or more casinos stay shuttered if the casinos can’t capitalize on Fourth of July weekend, which would result in thousands of middle-class and working-class residents losing their jobs,” Suleiman wrote Murphy. “The casinos weren’t ready for a Memorial Day weekend opening. But if we start now and if strict social distancing and cleanliness standards are established, then a July 4th opening is a realistic goal.”

Suleiman has the support of the most powerful Democrat in the state not named Murphy. State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) is also calling on the governor to allow casinos “to get back up and going again.”