ATLANTIC CITY — The owner of the Showboat hotel has plans to construct a new casino gaming facility next door to work around an existing prohibition on gambling at the Boardwalk property.
During a special meeting Monday morning of the Casino Control Commission, Bart Blatstein said a 2014 deed restriction preventing casino gaming at the Showboat would not be a problem because he wants to build an expansion on an adjoining lot.
The 123,000-square-foot lot off New Jersey Avenue is currently used for sand volleyball and, since it is separate and distinct from the existing Showboat property, is not subject to the deed restriction placed on the property by Caesars Entertainment Corp., according to a report from the state Division of Gaming Enforcement.
“The world has changed,” Blatstein said, in response to a question from gaming regulators about why he wanted to build a new casino facility. “The older-style casinos are no longer en vogue.”
Blatstein said he envisioned a casino property that was geared toward a younger demographic, with an emphasis on sports and esports.
“It needs to be different,” he said. “Young people are very mobile and very (experience-oriented), so it will be designed accordingly.”
Commission Vice Chair Alisa Cooper asked Blatstein about the potential impact of a 10th casino on the Atlantic City market.
“It’s not about the number of casinos,” he replied. “It’s about variety.”
In addition to the planned casino expansion, Blatstein intends to convert the hotel’s existing bus terminal into a “family entertainment center,” according to the DGE report.
Caesars Entertainment operated the Showboat for 16 years, before closing it in 2014. According to state regulators, the company placed a declaration of restricted covenant on the Showboat that prohibited casino gaming on the property. Blatstein said he had not attempted to contact Caesars about having the restriction removed.
The Philadelphia-based developer purchased the 1.4 million-square-foot Showboat in January 2016 for $23 million. In July of that year, Blatstein reopened the closed casino as a nongaming hotel.
On Monday, the three-member casino commission approved Blatstein’s petition for a statement of compliance, a preliminary requirement for securing a full casino license. Following the hearing, Blatstein declined to give a timeline for his planned expansion of Showboat but indicated to state gaming regulators that construction of a casino would take about 14 months.
Blatstein has not yet sought approvals from the state Division of Community Affairs, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority or Atlantic City in terms of constructing a new casino facility, the DGE report states.
In October, Blatstein sought approval from the CRDA to convert 264 hotel rooms in Showboat into market-rate rental apartments. The CRDA, a state agency with zoning and land-use authority over Atlantic City’s Tourism District, approved his request in November. Blatstein had originally planned to have the apartments available for occupancy by this summer.
The DGE report stated gaming regulators will “review the effect of the hotel room conversion into residential apartments in connection with its casino licensure investigation.”
Blatstein also owns the Garden and Playground piers, in addition to several other properties, in Atlantic City. He told the commission Monday he wanted to restore the Garden Pier to its original 600-foot length, but was waiting on the results of a study from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.