Showboat Atlantic City owner Bart Blatstein is taking steps to obtain the appropriate licenses to return his non-gaming Boardwalk property to a full-scale casino resort.
The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) has determined that the Philadelphia-based real estate developer is suitable for licensure. The DGE’s superior – the Casino Control Commission (CCC) – will consider the matter on Monday.
Should the three-member CCC approve Blatstein’s petition, the Showboat owner would be allowed to move towards formally applying for gaming approval.
Blatstein acquired the shuttered Showboat from Stockton University in January of 2016 for $23 million. He has already gained approval from state regulators to convert more than 250 of the property’s guestrooms into apartments.
When Blatstein opened the Showboat as a hotel-only resort, he marketed the property as an escape from the typical casino. Showboat offered kid and pet-friendly packages, no resort fees, and a main floor free of the constant ringing of slot machines.
Rocking the Showboat
Caesars Entertainment shuttered the Showboat in 2014 despite the Boardwalk casino remaining profitable. The company did so in an effort to better stabilize its three other Atlantic City properties.
Stockton University bought the Showboat that same year for $18 million, with plans to convert the resort into a satellite campus with student housing. However, a deed restriction reached in 1988 prevented the property from being used for anything other than a casino and hotel.
At the time, neighboring Trump Taj Mahal owner Carl Icahn refused to lift the restriction on grounds he didn’t want hordes of college kids living next door. Stockton eventually sold to Blatstein, and Icahn opted to lift the regulation and allow the Showboat to open as a non-gaming venue.
Icahn sold the Taj in 2017 to Hard Rock, and the resort reopened last June. Ocean Resort, the former Revel, opened on the same day. Combined, there’s been more than $1 billion poured into the two Boardwalk casinos that encompass the Showboat location.
Is Atlantic City Ready?
Five casinos in Atlantic City closed between 2014 and 2016. Some believed it was a market “right-sizing,” as casinos are no longer exclusive to the New Jersey beach town but in surrounding Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New York.
Hard Rock and Ocean Resort felt differently, as the two properties have invested heavily to bring the casinos back into operation. Gross gaming revenue (GGR) is increasing in Atlantic City, but the previous casinos are partially paying the price.
Full-year 2018 statistics show that land-based win was up four percent last year to $2.5 billion. However, six of the seven pre-Hard Rock and Ocean Resort gaming floors won fewer dollars.
Bally’s was down 10 percent, Borgata six percent, Caesars 13.5 percent, Harrah’s 8.7 percent, Resorts 3.6 percent, and Tropicana 2.5 percent. Only Golden Nugget posted a gain, and it was just 0.8 percent.
Atlantic City casinos are equipped with internet gaming – which continues to play a crucial role in the town’s overall resurgence – and as of last year, sports betting.
New Jersey Casino Control Commission Chairman James Plousis said this week, “It’s clear the new gaming options and other amenities are continuing to grow the Atlantic City market.”