Would AC Be a Good College Town?

By Brenda Flanagan

The jackpots, the gambling, the booze, the shows. Atlantic City casinos offer eye-popping distractions 24/7. That’s entertainment! But would it be a good environment for college students if Stockton College turns the derelict Showboat Casino-Hotel into a campus?

“On the boardwalk, like I said there’s a lot of casinos and distractions and I don’t think it’ll work,” said student Briana Porter.

“For the hospitality program, I think it would be beneficial because it’s in a hotel and it’s in Atlantic City,” said student Ahmad Shepherd-Sloan.

When asked if it is good for the students, Daniel Flath said, “That’s debatable because Atlantic City’s known for drugs and whatnot.”

“It might be too distracting for some people but it also would be a lot of fun if you know how to manage your time wisely,” student Jess McGarvey said.

Some 8,500 attend Stockton College. One-third live on its main campus, in the rural Pinelands of Atlantic County. It’s crowded and Showboat offers almost a million and a half square feet of space tucked between Revel and the tanking Taj Mahal. No one’s named a price for Showboat, but the $2.4 billion Revel sold for $110 million — a 95 percent discount. Bargain basement prices.

“It’s a great idea and it also helps to remaining casinos there as a feeder system to the new employment,” said Bill Pascrell.

Industry analyst Pascrell claims campus towns become vibrant feeders for the industries in their locations.

“The gaming monopoly that Atlantic City has, had…is gone, and so now they have to reinvent itself. It can have a gaming component to it but they need to look at new venues and I think higher education, hospitality education, is an important part of feeding the new situation in Atlantic City,” he said.

It’s “a project that enhances Stockton’s educational growth, offerings and cost control,” says Stockton President Herman Saatkamp, who signed a letter of intent to purchase Showboat from its owner, Caesars Entertainment. He said, “it brings new educational opportunities to Atlantic City.”

“This is a game changer for Atlantic City. You bring in a college and you transform Atlantic City from a Union City to a Hoboken,” said Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian. “I need to have a better-educated workforce in my city.”

Mayor Guardian says Stockton will help develop that workforce at the same time it attracts students and faculty. But will it also bring the new business and tax revenues that cash-strapped Atlantic City so desperately needs? He says the school already makes payments in lieu of taxes on its Seaview Resort and would do the same for Showboat.

“On those parts of the property, that the college is gonna continue to use as a hotel. That’ll be for-profit they would pay a tax or a payment in lieu of taxes there,” Guardian said.

One student at Stockton agreed Atlantic City’s a tough town but added a college community just might inject some life and improve the neighborhood on the boardwalk.