By Daniel Kelley
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - A college in southern New Jersey has announced plans to buy the shuttered Showboat Atlantic City casino resort from Caesars Entertainment Corp and turn the property into a branch campus.
The company announced Wednesday that Richard Stockton College, located just outside Atlantic City, had signed a letter of intent to buy the 1.4 million square foot building, which held 1,329 hotel rooms and sits on 28 beachfront acres.
Terms of the deal, which is subject to due diligence checks, were not disclosed.
"Our intent is to engage in a project that enhances Stockton's educational growth, offerings and cost-containment while at the same time brings new educational opportunities to Atlantic City," said Stockton College President Herman Saatkamp in a statement.
Caesars closed Showboat in August, despite it being profitable, to try to consolidate Atlantic City's deteriorating gaming market. It was the second of four casinos to close this year.
The state college was long thought to be interested in purchasing one of the shuttered casinos, with the Atlantic Club, which closed in January, said to be a prime candidate.
One bidder for the shuttered Revel Casino, located next to the Showboat, had imagined a university for that building. Revel was ultimately bought by Brookfield Management, which has experience in casino operations.
Caesars CEO Gary Loveman said the deal could help the city's economy evolve beyond gaming.
“The transformation and revitalization of Atlantic City requires the addition of a diverse set of reasons for people to come visit,” Loveman said in a statement.
Atlantic City officials have struggled to turn around the seaside resort's fortunes and find uses for the shuttered buildings.
Gaming companies, loath to open the door to new competition, have typically inserted deed restrictions ensuring that new owners did not re-open the properties as casinos.
Stockton College purchased the Seaview Resort in Galloway Township, New Jersey, in 2010 for $20 million. It uses part of the property to train students in hospitality and generate revenue for the college, and to house students.
News of the Showboat deal comes on the same day that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie convened a second closed-door summit of business, labor and government leaders focused on revitalizing the city.
In remarks to reporters before the meeting, Christie said those involved need to “accept realities and endure some pain” without getting weak-kneed.
(Editing by Frank McGurty and Eric Walsh)