A bill to remove contradictory deed restrictions on Atlantic City’s closed Showboat casino site has been approved by a New Jersey Senate Committee.
But not before committee members sharply criticized state school Stockton University, which bought the property for $18 million without state oversight and then was blocked from using the property by the competing covenants.
“If this were Princeton, or Drew, it wouldn’t be our problem,” said Sen. Peter Barnes, D-Middlesex a member of the Senate’s State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee which moved the bill. “Thank God Stockton’s a state school.”
When Stockton purchased the property from Caesars Entertainment, the casino company put a deed restriction on the property saying it could not be used for a casino. Stockton planned to use the site for an Atlantic City campus.
However, a previous covenant Caesars had with neighboring casinos said the site could only be used as a casino. Neighboring casino the Trump Taj Mahal objected to having a college campus next to its casino and invoked the covenant.
The bill would remove any deed restrictions for property’s owned by a public entity in Atlantic City’s casino zone.
Meanwhile, Caesars Entertainment issued a statement opposing the bill and suggesting it might be unconstitutional.
Stockton violated state procurement law that states college purchases of more than $10 million be reviewed by the state Office of the Comptroller. The university, however, did not submit the $18 million purchase of Showboat for review and the Comptroller’s Office is investigating.
The school is currently paying about $400,000 a month to maintain utilities, security and insurance at the site.
The bill now goes to the full Senate. A similar bill was introduced in the state Assembly but will likely not be heard until November.