- Associated Press - Friday, September 18, 2015

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) - Stockton University said Friday it is selling the former Showboat casino to Philadelphia developer Bart Blatstein for $22 million.

The deal, approved by the university Wednesday and set to close in November, rids Stockton of a property it once thought would be its long-sought urban satellite campus, but which brought the suburban university nothing but trouble.

“We were seeking a purchaser who demonstrated a commitment to Atlantic City when others were unwilling,” said Stockton President Harvey Kesselman. “Bart Blatstein is such an individual. The agreement allows the university and Mr. Blatstein to continue working together in ways that will benefit Stockton and contribute to Atlantic City’s renaissance.”

It was not immediately clear whether Blatstein would seek to reopen the Showboat as a casino or operate it as a non-gambling property. But the sale contract says gambling and liquor licenses, as well as permits related to the gambling business, are not part of the transaction.

Blatstein did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday. Earlier this year, he re-branded the former Pier Shops at Caesars as The Playground, an entertainment, dining and shopping complex.

In a July interview about The Playground, Blatstein told The Associated Press casinos have gotten tiresome in Atlantic City.

“Would you go see the same movie over and over again?” Blatstein asked at the time. “That’s what’s happening here. Atlantic City needs something else besides gambling.”

The Showboat closed Aug. 31, 2014. Stockton bought it in December 2014 for $18 million from Caesars Entertainment, announcing plans to convert it into an urban satellite campus that the suburban university had long wanted to establish.

Still to be unraveled are the competing deed restrictions. One, placed by Caesars Entertainment, prohibited the property from ever again being used as a casino. But there also was a 1988 legal covenant among the Showboat, the Trump Taj Mahal and Resorts casinos requiring the Showboat never be used for anything other than a casino.

After Trump Entertainment Resorts, which owns the Taj Mahal, refused to waive its rights under the 1988 covenant, Stockton tried to sell the property to Straub, who had recently bought the former Revel casino. That deal also fell through, leaving Stockton with a building it could not use and maintenance bills of $500,000 a month.

The parties agreed that the sale is not contingent on resolving those conflicting restrictions, and that Stockton is not required to try to resolve them. They further agreed that “any controversy which may arise under this agreement is likely to involve complicated and difficult issues,” and that both sides waive their right to a jury trial of any dispute that cannot be settled. One such complication is the potential of an appeal by Straub over the cancellation of his deal to buy the Showboat from Stockton.

The deal also calls on Stockton and Blatstein to negotiate an agreement calling for him to use Stockton interns at the newly reopened property; refer guests to the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Course for golf outings; and allow Stockton to use the House Of Blues nightclub to host events for free up to six times a year for 10 years.

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Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC

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