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Bart Blatstein

Founder & CEO, Tower Investments

Bart Blatstein

Bart Blatstein is a developer, with his main focus in Philadelphia and later in Atlantic City. He arrived in Atlantic City about 10 years ago and bought development rights for the Pier at Caesars, which he dubbed the “Playground.” When that venture failed, he bought the former Showboat Hotel Casino and Atlantic City’s Garden Pier. He recently opened the Island Water Park adjacent to Showboat and it’s been a huge success. He talks about his Atlantic City developments and about his faith in the future of the city with GGB Publisher Roger Gros. To hear a full version of this interview in a video and audio podcast, visit GGBMagazine.com.

GGB: Congratulations on the opening of the Island Waterpark at Showboat. How difficult was it to get financing for this facility and then to get it completed?

Blatstein: I’d like to say publicly it was simple, but man, was it difficult! The financing was brutal. As you know, the climate changed for financing in the last couple years, but also it’s Atlantic City. Atlantic City is a tough town to get projects financed.

What has the reaction of the visitor been so far?

I’m not on social media, but it has been told to me, it’s all been very favorable social media. The press has loved it. And it’s not just something that is Atlantic City, but it’s something for the region within a three-hour drive. And I’ve had nothing about accolades. I’ve been very blessed and I have a great team.

Two summers ago, you opened the Lucky Snake arcade, and last summer the Raceway opened, a great indoor go-cart track. What role do you have in those ventures?

I own everything there. I own all the machines and devices. When Covid started, at the very beginning I thought it was time to make some moves here because there’s a beginning, middle and end to everything. In the 45 years I’ve been doing this, I’ve been through recessions and downturns and whatever. So we scoured the country for bankrupt or closed arcades and started to populate the arcade and bought hundreds of machines. And we had tractor trailers coming in from all over the country. So we put together an arcade because everybody loves an arcade. Everything in there is something that I like myself. No one ever leaves an arcade unhappy. We have the only indoor go-cart track in the lobby of a hotel in the world. It’s a 40,000-square-foot go-cart track, and it’s been fun and very successful.

For years, people have been saying Atlantic City isn’t for children or families. Do you think you’re proving them wrong?

Yes, 100 percent. When I was growing up, Atlantic City was always a great place for kids. You had a number of amusement piers. You had shops and restaurants and arcades, and you just had a lot to do for families. And one by one, they all disappeared with the advent of casino gambling in the ’70s. We’re changing that and people are coming back.

Do you think your family concept will be expanded to really welcome them back to Atlantic City?

Less than 8 percent of the 24 million tourists that come to Atlantic City are families. So when you look at that number you can see the potential of introducing something very new and different. There is no facility like ours in the country—an indoor family multi-faceted entertainment venue. Quite frankly, there has never been an adaptive reuse of a casino, so we had to kind of invent it ourselves and people really enjoy it. So yes, I believe that you’re going to see a turnaround in Atlantic City that you haven’t seen in its 169-year history. To me it’s a no brainer. Over 20 percent of the land in the city is vacant land. And you have an administration that is very pro-business and pro-development. I wouldn’t be there doing what I’m doing unless the administration was very cooperative and helpful. And the mayor, Marty Small, actually dug in there and helped us get our permits in time to get open by July 4. So I’m very bullish on Atlantic City, and it’s just a lot of fun.

Roger Gros is publisher of Global Gaming Business, the industry's leading gaming trade publication, and all its related publications. Prior to joining Global Gaming Business, Gros was president of Inlet Communications, an independent consulting firm. He was vice president of Casino Journal Publishing Group from 1984-2000, and held virtually every editorial title during his tenure. Gros was editor of Casino Journal, the National Gaming Summary and the Atlantic City Insider, and was the founding editor of Casino Player magazine. He was a co-founder of the American Gaming Summit and the Southern Gaming Summit conferences and trade shows. He is the author of the best-selling book, How to Win at Casino Gambling (Carlton Books, 1995), now in its fourth edition. Gros was named "Businessman of the Year" for 1998 by the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce, and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Gaming Association in 2012.

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