Developer Bart Blatstein is in line to buy the shuttered Showboat Casino Hotel from Stockton University, a purchase that could close the door on the school’s ill-fated plans to convert the property to a satellite campus, NJBIZ has learned.The Philadelphia-based builder, whose firm is overseeing the transformation of the former Pier Shops at Caesars, has signed a purchase agreement to acquire the property, according to a source with knowledge of the deal. The source was not authorized to speak about the agreement publicly, and it was not clear how much Blatstein would pay for the former boardwalk casino or what his plans are.
If the sale is completed, it could help Stockton move on from its controversial plans to convert Showboat into a so-called island campus. The Galloway-based university paid $18 million to acquire the property last December from Caesars Entertainment, but its plan collapsed in March because of restrictions on the building’s use as a nongaming facility.
Those restrictions came a 1988 agreement between Caesars Entertainment and the ownership of nearby Trump Taj Mahal, which said the property can only be used as a casino-hotel. That led Stockton to sell Showboat to Florida-based developer Glenn Straub in April, a deal that later stalled and resulted in litigation that allowed the school to seek another buyer.
Following the resignation of Stockton President Herman Saatkamp, who had championed the plans, acting President Harvey Kesselman has since moved to get out from under the deal. The deal has also drawn scrutiny from state lawmakers.
Blatstein, CEO of the Philadelphia-based Tower Investments, won the right late last year to take over the struggling Pier Shops at Caesars. He plans to convert the complex into a hub for live music, dining and entertainment called The Playground, the first phase of which opened this summer.