Philadelphia-based developer Bart Blatstein has a vision of a thriving, vital Atlantic City that is a magnet for young residents and visitors. What’s more, he’s sufficiently confident in that future and the opportunities it offers that he is committing large amounts of his money and time to make himself part of it.
Blatstein’s plans for the major properties he has acquired are big and dramatic, and just the kind of thing a reviving Atlantic City needs.
He wants to add casino gaming to his Showboat hotel, which seemed to have been ruled out by a deed restriction placed by previous owner Caesars Entertainment that barred such a use by subsequent owners. Blatstein’s clever workaround would be to build a gaming facility next door on a lot not covered by the deed restriction.
He said he envisioned a casino property that appeals to a younger demographic, with an emphasis on sports and esports. Young people are more mobile and very experience-oriented, he said, so “it needs to be different.”
That’s a welcome approach as the city looks to broaden its appeal and offer a greater variety of attractions.
Blatstein will pursue a full casino license (he has already demonstrated preliminary compliance) and his plans will need multiple state approvals. In November, he secured approval to convert 264 hotel rooms in Showboat into rental apartments. Now state regulators will consider how that would affect casino licensing.
Across the Boardwalk nearby, Blatstein has another major property — the dilapidated Garden Pier. During his Showboat plan presentation to the Casino Control Commission, he said he wants to restore the pier to its original 600-foot length and is awaiting a study on it by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Blatstein also owns the much larger and already rebuilt Playground Pier to the south. The three major properties together could someday be an anchor of a restored Boardwalk that is again the city’s most popular destination.
Much needs to happen in Atlantic City before then, and if Blatstein gets his Showboat casino built, he’ll experience the toughness of the existing gaming competitors. But the size of the challenges and the uncertainty of these dreams also underscore the degree of confidence he must have in the city and the state to proceed enthusiastically.
Developers and investors with bold plans are exactly what the city needs. And if they add something a little different to what already draws a good crowd to Atlantic City, so much the better.