Atlantic City now has nine casinos. But if you think that’s a lot, in the not so distant past, the town had 12 casino hotels. One of them was the Atlantic Club.
Atlantic Club, closed since 2014, gets a new buyer
After filing for bankruptcy in November, 2013, Atlantic Club shut its doors permanently on Jan. 13 2014. It was the first of four Atlantic City casino hotels to close in 2014. Trump Taj Mahal followed suit in 2016.
Over the past 5 ½ years, several prospective buyers had expressed interest in the Atlantic Club. But–until now–nothing materialized. Sadly, the shuttered property has stood in the same location, vacant and neglected, all of this time, just like another eyesore on the Atlantic City Boardwalk, Trump Plaza, which also closed in 2014.
Now, for what seems like the umpteenth time, Atlantic Club is back in the news, but with a big difference. A company with the ability to put it to good use finally bought it!
Colosseo Atlantic City is the new owner
After the Atlantic Club closed, Tropicana Entertainment and Caesars Entertainment temporarily jointly took over ownership. Tropicana gained access to the slot machines, gaming tables, and player database, while Caesars acquired the physical property itself.
However, on May 29, 2014, Caesars sold the Atlantic Club to the Florida development firm TJM Properties for a reported price of $13.5 million. The terms of the sale also stipulated that the new owner could not offer a casino, but that was not TJM Properties’ intention. The plan instead was to transform the place into a non-gaming facility (i.e., a stand-alone hotel, like it did with the Claridge), or sell the property to someone else who could make it happen.
As it turned out, TJM itself did not do anything with the Atlantic Club but wait for a buyer that met their criteria to come forward. However, lack of interest wasn’t the problem. Over the ensuing years, one by one, multiple prospective buyers emerged, each with grandiose plans to bring the doomed resort back to life. However, in every instance, the deal fell through–at least until last week.
According to a Tues., Oct. 1 Press of Atlantic City article, TJM Properties has sold the Atlantic Club to the NYC-based investment and construction firm Colosseo Atlantic City, Inc. for an undisclosed price. The sale reportedly took place the previous week.
Will this be the boost that this long idle property needs? The consensus is yes.
Both TJM Properties and Colosseo have indicated being very pleased that this sale has come to fruition. Matt Bradley, one of the people at TJM Properties who handled the sale, had this to say:
“We have made every effort to find a buyer who could realize the potential of the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel, We are confident that with their extensive experience in construction and redeveloping larger properties, Colosseo is the right company for the job.”
Meanwhile, Rocco Sebastiani, president of Colosseo, stated that his company was “looking forward to working in Atlantic City and restoring such a great property.”
Sebastiani acknowledged that it wouldn’t be easy but expressed confidence that his company was up for the challenge. As he told The Associated Press:
“It’s got a lot of renovating that needs to be done; that’s what we do. We buy assets that need a lot of work and bring them up to market.”
A new casino is not part of the plan
Sebastiani also offered a preview of what his firm intends to do with the property. First, it will renovate it. Then it will then reopen the facility as a non-casino hotel with 800 rooms and new retail and food beverage offerings.
Colosseo Atlantic City does not possess a casino license and does not plan to seek one. The same deed restriction that Caesars insisted upon when it sold the property to TJM back in 2014 remains in effect. But it is probably for the best. Even if the deed restriction were to be lifted, any attempt by a new owner to open another casino there would meet with strong opposition. That’s because the Atlantic Club’s very close proximity to Stockton University would almost certainly make underage gambling even more of a problem.
What gambling experts think about the Atlantic Club sale
Furthermore, most gambling experts agree that for Atlantic City to continue on its current path of growth and avoid another downturn due to increased competition from other casinos nearby, it needs to promote itself as a complete resort destination. Gambling needs to be viewed as only one of the many attractions it has to offer.
Accordingly, Rummy Pandit, executive director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University, views the sale of the Atlantic Club as something that can do great things for Atlantic City. Pandit envisions that reopening the former Atlantic Club as a non-casino hotel would “rejuvenate” the whole neighborhood.
“If the property is marketed to a predefined segment, it’s going to be very successful. Its location is amazing. . . So this end of the Boardwalk would certainly benefit from that,” Pandit asserted.
The new Atlantic City Mayor’s reaction to the sale of the Atlantic Club
Newly appointed interim Mayor of Atlantic City Marty Small agrees, calling the sale “great news.” Small made this comment as well:
“The Atlantic Club has been rumored to be sold for a long time, now it’s a reality. This is another indication of investor confidence, which is a great outlook on the future of our city.”
On the other hand, history is not on the side of the Atlantic Club
I, too, am encouraged by the news of the sale. So I am looking forward to seeing if Colosseo Atlantic City can deliver on its promises and transform the Atlantic Club, or whatever new name it chooses to give the resort, from an eyesore to a destination worth visiting. But at the same time, given the property’s long-existing troubled history, I am skeptical. I will believe in the promised changes for the better when I see them.
Before it became the Atlantic Club, while still a casino hotel, this property has had so many different names and owners, it’s hard to keep track of them all. Its first seven years (1980-1987) were by far its best when it operated as the Golden Nugget. Thereafter, under a succession of different owners, the casino hotel underwent four more name changes: Bally’s Grand (1987-1996), Atlantic City Hilton (1996-2011), ACH Resort (2011-2012), and finally, the Atlantic Club (2012-2014).
What has happened (or more precisely not happened) there since 2014 is no less disappointing.
In December, 2014, the Pennsylvania-based Endeavor Property Group, which specialized in housing for seniors, indicated that it wanted to buy the Atlantic Club. But the company could not secure the needed funding to do so.
In 2017, a Ventnor developer proposed converting the facility into a family-friendly water park. But that grandiose plan soon died in the water.
Stockton University was another prospective buyer. Its plan was to demolish the existing property and replace it with a nine-level parking garage. However, that idea never got off the ground either, and by September, 2018, the only thing to collapse was not the Atlantic Club building but Stockton University’s proposed deal.
Then, as recently as March, 2019, another deal being considered to sell the property to Philadelphia-based Jeffrey Smolinsky of North American Acquisitions fell through as well.
Summary and conclusion
Based on all of the foregoing, I can’t get too excited about the sale of the Atlantic Club yet. However, if Colosseo can deliver on its promises, that would be great for Atlantic City. Much like the opening of Hard Rock and Ocean Casino Resort and the reopening of Showboat as a non-casino hotel have revitalized the North Beach area, reopening the Atlantic Club can revitalize the southern end of the Boardwalk.
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