By Hilary Russ
(Reuters) – Real estate developer Bart Blatstein said on Friday he will reopen the Showboat, one of Atlantic City’s four shuttered casino hotels, in July, but without the gambling.
Blatstein, chief executive of Philadelphia-based Tower Investments, said in a statement that 852 hotel rooms will open in two towers at the Showboat, making it the largest non-casino hotel in New Jersey.
The announcement comes after state lawmakers and Governor Chris Christie ended months of bickering over the best way to help cash-strapped Atlantic City, passing legislation that gives the city much-needed aid and 150 days to craft a recovery plan before facing a possible state takeover.
“Last week our lawmakers … gave investors a strong blueprint for fiscal stability. I now see a clear path and bright future for this city I love so much,” Blatstein said.
The Showboat was one of four Atlantic City casinos to close in 2014 largely because of competition from neighboring states with newly legalized gambling.
All four remain closed, and up to half of the eight casinos that remain could potentially shutter if New Jersey moves forward with plans to open two new casinos outside of the city in the northern part of the state, closer to New York City.
The expanded gambling proposal, however, faces a long and uncertain future and voters, who are evenly split on the issue, must still first decide in November whether to approve it.
The Showboat carries a deed restriction that currently prevents it from reopening the casino. Former Showboat owner Caesars Entertainment Corp closed it in 2014 even though it had been marginally profitable.
Asked whether he would ever seek to reopen the casino at Showboat, Blatstein said in a phone interview that “all options are open … It’s a remarkable property. I’m very bullish on Atlantic City.”
He aims to open the hotel by July 4, though it could take an additional week.
“To open up that many rooms in a month’s time, it’s a lot of sheets and pillowcases. It’s a lot of work,” he said.
Blatstein has other developments in the seaside resort town, including the boardwalk entertainment and retail complex The Playground at Caesars casino hotel.
In May, the city council also gave the city the green light to negotiate with Blatstein on the sale and development of public land between the Showboat and neighboring Revel Casino Hotel, which is also closed, the Press of Atlantic City reported.
(Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Tom Brown)