The parent company of Atlantic City's Trump Taj Mahal casino said Wednesday that it doesn't want a college next door, fearing it would cause problems with underage patrons trying to gamble.
Trump Entertainment Resorts told The Associated Press that it notified Stockton University and Caesars Entertainment three months ago that it would not permit a college to operate next to the Taj Mahal. Caesars closed the Showboat Aug. 31, and Stockton bought it in December, planning to convert it into a satellite campus with a portion used as an open-to-the-public hotel.
Caesars, Trump and Resorts signed a 1988 covenant stating that Showboat will always be operated as a first-class casino resort. Trump Entertainment says that because it's in bankruptcy, it cannot waive its rights under the covenant "without receiving appropriate consideration."
Trump Entertainment says none was ever offered.
"In 1988 Showboat, Resorts and Taj all agreed to provide for a cluster of casinos at the north end of the Boardwalk ... to create greater customer traffic for all three properties," Trump Entertainment said in a statement. "To that end, the three agreed that Showboat would always be operated as a first class casino hotel."
The company said that in December, Caesars asked it to voluntarily waive the covenant to allow Stockton to operate a college campus there. But Trump Entertainment said it told Caesars at that time it could not and would not waiver its rights.
"The facts are that our company does not think having a college next door to the Taj is good for our company," Trump Entertainment said. "Having kids under 21 who will attempt to gain entry to the casino and engage in activities reserved for those only 21 and older would create numerous problems we do not want, and could damage the Taj's ability to attract customers and regain its financial health. You do not see a college on the Las Vegas strip. Both Caesars and Stockton elected to proceed with the Showboat sale even though they were fully aware that we could not waive the casino/hotel covenant as they were asking. "
Stockton's president, Herman Saatkamp, lashed out at Trump Entertainment on Tuesday night, saying, "We have been stabbed in the heart."
He said he was still hopeful an arrangement could be reached, but it would have to come in the next two weeks or so for the campus to be ready for summer classes.
Failing that, Saatkamp said, Stockton will have to quickly sell the property.
Stockton's purchase and planned reuse of Showboat was one of the few silver linings to emerge from a brutal wave of casino closings in Atlantic City last year, which saw four of its 12 casinos close. They include the Taj Mahal's neighbors Revel and Showboat.
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC