[toc]When Stockton University bought Showboat Casino in 2014 for $18 million, the plan was to turn the property into a satellite campus. Those lofty aspirations came crashing down when a 1998 legal covenant between the Trump Taj Mahal, Resorts AC and Showboat was revealed, an agreement that required the property to remain a casino-hotel.
Showboat OK’d be just a resort
While the news was frustrating for the university, it managed to turn around and sell the legendary property to developer Bart Blatstein in January for a $5 million profit. And now, 10 months later, the casino-only pact has been resolved, as Resorts and Blatstein have agreed to end the restriction.
Blatstein told Associated Press reporter Wayne Parry that the restriction-free property “unlocks real value” and that the Showboat is a “wonderful property in a transitioning town.” The Showboat reopened this July on a limited basis.
School president knew about Showboat covenant
When Stockton University bought the property in 2014, the Showboat was one of four casinos that had closed amid an economic contraction. Herman Saatkamp, the university president at the time, led what seemed to be a very promising vision in which Atlantic City would be home to a thriving university satellite.
However, the university’s board of trustees soon found out about the casino-only clause in the building’s deed. The news came as a shock, considering Stockton was paying between $500,000 and $600,000 a month to maintain the building. As the university took steps to sell the property to Blatstein, it came to light that Saatkamp had known all along that the no-casino clause existed, but failed to tell the board.
According to NJSPotlight.com, an independent investigation conducted after the sale concluded that Saatkamp’s advocacy for the sale “was not based upon any illicit motive or self-dealing,” even though he knew about the covenant.
Part of the reason why Saatkamp’s move may not have been sinister is because the land’s deed also included a stipulation that it could be used for anything but a casino. Those dueling covenants eventually came under the scrutiny of the NJ House and Senate, both of which passed a bill to resolve the covenants.
The casino covenant came into the spotlight in the spring of 2015 when Saatkamp negotiated a sale with the wily developer Glen Straub, who owns the soon-to-be-reopened Revel. As it turns out, Straub rewrote the original contract between the two men, inserting a new stipulation that Saatkamp was responsible for getting the covenant waived. Straub eventually backed out of the deal.
Showboat becomes biggest non-casino resort in AC
This past summer, Blatstein opened the Showboat as a non-casino hotel with 852 rooms, making it the largest of its kind in Atlantic City. He was none too shy about touting his new venture: “It is the best non-casino and no smoking property in Atlantic City”.
Since its reopening as a hotel-only property, the Showboat’s TripAdvisor page has received 63 reviews, earning an average rating of 3.5 stars.
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