For the better part of this year, all of the headlines revolving around New Jersey’s land-based casino market have been discouraging ones. Of the 12 casinos located in Atlantic City, four of them shut down in 2014, and a fifth is scheduled to close next week. Coming out from beneath the black cloud is the owner of The Chelsea hotel, who said he’d like to open a small casino in Atlantic City.
For years, Atlantic City casinos were obligated to abide by a strict requirement regarding hotel size and structural duties. In 2011, a law was passed that reduced the standard to a minimum of 200 rooms, but still required the hotel to expand to at least 500 rooms in the future. On Thursday, New Jersey lawmakers signed off on an amendment to remove the expansion requirement and allow smaller casinos to be installed within the existing hotel. The final step is approval in the Senate.
The amendment reflects part of New Jersey’s ongoing efforts to revive the city’s steadily diminishing gambling industry. There are only two licenses available for ‘Boutique Casinos’, and the moment the amendment was passed, Chelsea owner Curtis Bashaw declared his intent to claim one.
Bashaw says his hotel would be the perfect location for a small casino in Atlantic City. “We have always been interested in the idea of adding a gaming amenity to The Chelsea,” said Bashaw in an interview with The Associated Press. “It’s a boutique hotel; we don’t have room for a big casino. But the bill that passed prevented us from taking advantage.”
Curtis Bashaw said that he would have applied for a casino license a long time ago had it not been for the prerequisite that the casino be constructed anew. The fact that he can now turn the 5th floor of his hotel into a casino floor changed everything for Bashaw. He believes his plan will do for Atlantic City just what the bill intends – bring in more customers and more revenue for the state.
“It would be a very intimate experience,” Bashaw explained, detailing his plans to install between 25 and 30 tables on the casino floor. He also wants to omit the intimidating atmosphere that New Jersey’s larger casinos may impress upon some players. He hopes to establish special instructional sessions to teach new gamblers how various casino games are played, and would give hotel guests priority at the tables. “The casino would be a desirable place to go and learn to play and hang out with your friends.
“I think there is too much capacity of the one-size-fits-all gaming floor that dominates Atlantic City,” Bashaw continued. “We don’t want to compete with the mega-gaming halls. We want to give the customer an opportunity to broaden the experience; people are always looking for different experiences.”
Considering New Jersey’s number of casinos has dropped from 12 to 8 this year alone, and could fall even further to 7 on December 20th if Taj Mahal doesn’t get bailed out within the week, the time for change is upon us. For now though, Bashaw will have to wait. The bill is currently on its way to the Senate for consideration. On the plus side, state officials can reflect on Bashaw’s plan as well, and if they agree with his assessment, it could prove a supplementary catalyst for pushing the bill into law.