agreement between Showboat and the
Taj dictates that the Showboat space remain a casino. Straub swooped in with a
safety net for the school, purchasing the
property from Stockton for $26 million.
(Under a contingency plan, Stockton has
90 days to resolve its dispute with Taj
Mahal and cancel its deal with Straub.)
Smaller-scale gaming could be on
the horizon. Curtis Bashaw, owner of
the Chelsea, a 330-room, non-casino
hotel on the Boardwalk near Pacific
Avenue, says he wants to add gaming.
He would be the first to take advantage
of proposed legislation that would allow
smaller, so-called boutique casinos. A
developer and hotelier with properties
in Cape May, Manhattan and Sag Harbor, Bashaw expressed interest in gaming when he opened the Chelsea in 2012.
At the time, the state required boutique
casinos to be newly built properties that
would eventually expand to 500 rooms.
The pending bill, cosponsored by Senate
president Stephen Sweeney and state
senator James Whelan, would eliminate
“We’d move right away on this,”
Bashaw says, “and hopefully be able
to launch [gaming] six months after
approval.” Bashaw wants to model the
Chelsea’s gambling space on the club-like casinos of London and Monaco. “I’d
create an intimate experience,” he says,
“a place where friends can play together.
Right now, if you want to play blackjack
at one of the bigger casinos and you’re a
novice, it’s kind of intimidating. And if
you come with friends, you have to wait
for a spot at a table and you won’t end
up playing together.”
Diversifying the casino experience
will draw a new generation of gamers to
Atlantic City, Bashaw predicts. He says
he plans to keep table stakes lower than
at the big casinos, offer gaming instruc-
tion and—with a “velvet-rope nightclub
approach,” requiring table reserva-
tions—improve gaming’s image from
low-brow to cosmopolitan.
By September, a mega convention
facility attached to Harrah’s casino will
bring new visitors to town. The planned
100,000-square-foot conference center
is touted as the largest meeting space
between Baltimore and Boston. ;
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