Lawmakers urge removal deed restrictions from Showboat site
TRENTON (AP) — Two southern New Jersey lawmakers have proposed legislation that would absolve Stockton University of conflicting land covenants on the former Showboat Casino site in Atlantic City.
State Sen. Jim Whelan and Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo announced their plans Monday.
The two Atlantic County Democrats said their proposal would state that any covenants or deed restrictions on property held by public entities in the city's tourism district violate the public interest. They say that would make them void and unenforceable, though it was not clear whether the legislation could accomplish that goal or if a judge would have to approve the plan.
Whelan said the legislation will be considered Thursday by the Senate's State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee, which he chairs. It will be introduced in the Assembly the next time that body gathers in Trenton.
Caesars Entertainment shut the still-profitable Showboat last August in the name of reducing competition in the struggling Atlantic City casino market. In December, it sold the property for $18 million to Stockton, a suburban college that planned to use it as a long-sought satellite city campus.
But Caesars Entertainment placed a deed restriction on the Showboat before selling it to Stockton, preventing it from ever being used as a casino again. That clashed with a 1988 covenant signed by Showboat, the Trump Taj Mahal and Resorts mandating that the Showboat never be used as anything other than a casino.
Stockton did not get the 1988 covenant resolved before buying the Showboat, and Taj Mahal owner Trump Entertainment Resorts refused to waive it, fearing that underage college students next door would sneak into the Taj Mahal to drink and gamble, exposing the casino to costly fines.
Stockton now spends more than $400,000 a month maintaining the Showboat site.
The school's acting president, Harvey Kesselman, said Monday that he was "extremely grateful" to Whelan and Mazzeo for "addressing the public policy issue created by the restrictions the casinos imposed on us." If the restrictions are lifted, he said that would make it easier to market the site to potential buyers.
A judge ruled last week that the school can try to find another buyer after a $26 million deal with developer Glenn Straub wasn't completed.
Trump Entertainment CEO Robert Griffin declined comment Monday on the proposed legislation, while a message left for Caesars spokeswoman was not returned.
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