Showboat Owner Buys More Atlantic City Property, Including Garden Pier

The owner of the reopened Showboat is expanding his footprint in Atlantic City with a series of purchases.

The owner of the reopened Showboat is expanding his footprint in Atlantic City with a series of purchases.

What the owner of the Showboat did

Multiple media reports indicated that Bart Blatstein — the owner of the Showboat resort — bought a number of properties in AC this week. That included two important parcels that had lied dormant: the Garden Pier and a lot between Showboat and the shuttered Revel resort.

Showboat reopened last year as just a resort, with no casino gambling.

More from the Press of AC:

With Friday’s deals, the Philadelphia-based developer has gained control of five waterfront properties since 2015. His purchases, he said, reflect his belief in Atlantic City’s “revival.”

 

Blatstein bought the former Boardwalk volleyball court on New Jersey Avenue for $3.8 million, Garden Pier for $1.5 million and 12 lots bordered by the Absecon Inlet, Oriental Avenue and Dewey Place for $660,000, city Planning and Development Director Elizabeth Terenik said.

Blatstein would not reveal any concrete plans for the properties, according to the Press of AC.

AC getting its money situation straightened out?

It’s been a good couple of weeks for AC on the money front.

On top of the deals negotiated with Blatstein, the state of New Jersey closed a deal between the city and the Borgata on a tax dispute. The result was the city owing $72 million to Borgata. That might not seem like a win on its face, that’s half the amount the city might have owed to the biggest resort casino in AC in the previously unresolved case.

The purchases by Blatstein are the latest pieces in a jigsaw puzzle as AC tries to extract itself from a fiscal mess during a state takeover of the city.

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The resurgent Showboat and South Inlet?

The Blatstein purchases are good news for the South Inlet part of AC, which could use it.

The Trump Taj Mahal closed in October; its owner, Carl Icahn, apparently wants to sell the shuttered property. We still don’t know what will happen with TEN Atlantic City, the resort planning to open inside the former Revel. A date for opening TEN over Presidents’ Day weekend came and went, with no activity.

The Showboat already classified its reopening as a “great success.” Blatstein’s purchase of surrounding properties is likely a harbinger of good things to come for that part of the AC boardwalk.

Showboat AC Says It Has Been A ‘Great Success’ Since 2016 Relaunch

The Showboat in Atlantic City is still open after closing a few years ago, although it has quietly stayed off the radar in terms of drama.

The Showboat in Atlantic City is still open after closing a few years ago, although it has quietly stayed off the radar in terms of drama.

That doesn’t mean there are no plans for it to make a bigger impact in the future.

What AC has been focused on other than Showboat

Atlantic City has been mired with a lot of questions of late:

The once-closed Showboat and now reopened resort on the AC boardwalk, meanwhile, has largely stayed out of the headlines.

What’s Showboat up to?

The Press of Atlantic City caught up with the plans for the resort, which is open without gambling on property. The resort reopened in July.

Things are going swimmingly, if a public relations person for Showboat is to be believed. More from the Press of AC:

“The Showboat has been a great success since Tower reopened it last year with full to nearly full capacity every weekend,” said Lisa Johnson, spokeswoman for the property. “Even now during the winter it’s doing great business. Christmas and New Year’s Eve were sold out as well.”

For reference, the resort has more than a thousand rooms. If everything Johnson said is true, it’s a good sign not only for the future of Showboat, but also for all of AC as it tries to wean itself from total dependence on casino revenue.

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What’s next for Showboat?

Showboat is not going to rest on its laurels; just being open is not enough for developer and owner Bart Blatstein. He told the Press of AC he was “extremely optimistic” about the future of the property.

Blatstein was mum on concrete details in discussing the Showboat, other than constructing a “multi-use event center” on site.

What’s clear is 2016 was just the beginning for the revitalized Showboat, and it’s likely to shake things up in AC more in 2017 and beyond.

Showboat Freed: Casino-Only Claim Resolved For Atlantic City Resort

Showboat is officially allowed to be a resort only, with no casino, after a decades-old agreement was lifted on the Atlantic City property.

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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Looming Trump Taj Mahal Closure Leaves Atlantic City Hope To Showboat, Revel

The South Inlet of the Atlantic City boardwalk is changing quickly, with Trump Taj Mahal closing, the Showboat reopening, and Revel in limbo.

The South Inlet of the Atlantic City boardwalk is changing quickly, for better or worse.

The Showboat is back (without gambling). The Trump Taj Mahal is closing. The Revel is in limbo, but could open this year.

It all adds up to a different dynamic for that part of Atlantic City.

The South Inlet, resurgent or backsliding?

Before the news that the Taj would close its doors next month, there were hopes that the South Inlet would lead a resurgence for that section of the beleaguered city. That was also the narrative when the $2.4 billion Revel opened, before quickly closing in 2014.

Now? There are three properties in the area that are in varying states. And things are again looking gloomy for that part of AC.

The Press of Atlantic City took an in-depth look at the South Inlet:

“It’s ironic,” Mayor Don Guardian said. “Everyone said that it was going to become the center of the city.”

 

Showboat owner Bart Blatstein and Revel owner Glenn Straub “almost have to rise up together to create a little density on that end of the Boardwalk,” said Bryant Simon, a professor of history at Temple University and the author of “Boardwalk of Dreams: Atlantic City and the Fate of Urban America.”

 

“Emptiness is not why we love cities,” he said.

Taj Mahal, definitely closing?

It’s not yet a guarantee that the Trump Taj Mahal shuts down operations.

A month-long strike prompted billionaire Carl Icahn to announce that he wouldn’t keep the doors open, with plans to shutter the property in October.

There are at least some — the union behind the workers that are striking included — that believe it could just be a giant game of chicken to take away the union’s leverage.

The Unite Here Local 54 protested outside of Icahn’s offices in New York City this week.

Obviously, if the Taj doesn’t close, that changes things for the other two nearby properties.

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Where’s that leave Showboat?

The business plan for the Showboat was never likely to be on a figurative island on the South Inlet of AC.

The property is planning to only offer hotel rooms, entertainment, and other amenities. Gambling isn’t in the plans, right now; however, if it is bought by a new owner, that could be in the cards. (Currently, there is a deed restriction on the property, but the NJ legislature could move to lift it.)

Shuttered properties on either side of Showboat does not appear to be ideal. In reality, it means there could be no gambling on that section of the boardwalk unless you travel to Resorts. (There is no casino at Showboat, no reopening or gambling license at Revel in the near future, and the planned Taj closure.)

So while Showboat might benefit a bit from a decrease in supply of hotel rooms in the form of the Taj closure, the problems in the South Inlet are not good for business long term.

Plans probably move forward for adding more features to the Showboat — and for reopening Revel — but the resurgence some hoped for in that part of AC could be stymied.

Aneese / Shutterstock.com