Former Atlantic City casino reborn as a hotel

(Showboat Hotel)

The Showboat Casino in Atlantic City, N.J., shut down two years ago and is reopening as a hotel.  

Bart Blatstein, a Philadelphia developer, said in a statement that the building is holding on to the Showboat name but is no longer offering casino games. The property is shedding its past life as a center for gaming and is operating entirely as a hotel, and is opening with 852 oceanfront rooms and 38 1,100-square-foot oceanfront balcony suites. The hotel also has two 1,900-square-foot super suites that have an added gas fireplace. 

The reopening of the Showboat is a good sign for a city that runs on gaming, but whose casinos have been failing one by one. Las Vegas, the West Coast's closest comparison to Atlantic City, has economic issues of its own but continues to thrive in ways that the New Jersey destination has failed. However, back when the $2-billion Revel casino failed in 2014 (the same year the Showboat shut down) there were calls to find ways outside of gaming to stimulate Atlantic City's economy to avoid the fallout of neighboring states opening their own casinos. One prospective Revel buyer even suggested turning the property into a massive water park (he never bought the resort), but with shuttered businesses re-opening with a new mission the city could finally be gaining alternative options for existing assets. 

Reopening the Showboat has not been a walk in the park. Before Blatstein purchased the casino from Stockton Univeristy for $22 million in October 2015, the University had to shore up its debts and other factors. Roughly $8 million was spent on the closed casino since Stockton bought it in December 2014, with almost $700,000 going to legal bills of law firms involved in the property's dealings, as well as lawsuits and investigations that began as a result of the deal. In total, the university spent $26 million on investments to the property. 

Other issues plagued the Showboat's reopening, such as a contract from another entity, KK Ventures, which went sour when the deal did not take place in July of last year. Eventually, Stockton was able to prove the deal was properly terminated, allowing the casino to be sold to Blatstein, but not until taking the case to court. 

Even with successes like the Showboat, Atlantic City still has a long road ahead of it. The city's administrators are currently in conflict with a possible bankruptcy, and as of May 2016 its meetings and convention organization, Meet AC, said it is not on track to hit its projected room numbers for events. Everyone from the city's mayor, Don Guardian, to New Jersey governor Chris Christie are pointing fingers in different directions, but operators are hoping for a resolution some time soon in order to keep the hospitality side of Atlantic City profitable. 

“We are hoping that the political minds making the decisions will quickly come to some consensus and get the finances fixed in Atlantic City,” Jim Wood, CEO of Meet AC, said in May.