Showboat Hotel Atlantic City Gets New Manager with Casino Experience

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The Showboat Hotel in Atlantic City, currently not one of the nine New Jersey casinos operating in the city, has appointed ex-Hard Rock executive Anthony Faranca as its new General Manager.

The changeover to a manager with decades of experience in the gambling industry has been seen by many as a signal the Showboat Hotel could soon be adding a casino to its operations. It hasn’t had casino gaming since 2014, and in recent years has focused on family-friendly hotel amenities, such as a giant gaming arcade and a $100 million water park.

However, speculation is the water park isn’t performing as well as expected. That means Showboat owner Bart Blatstein may look to make up the shortfall with a new casino.

If he was to do so, Faranca would be one of the top choices to run a new casino in Atlantic City. He is a seasoned executive in the casino resort industry, bringing more than 20 years of experience to the Showboat Hotel.

His extensive employment history includes roles such as regional VP of national casino marketing at Caesars Atlantic City properties, VP and GM at Parx Casino, and president of Hard Rock Atlantic City.

“We are thrilled to announce the addition of such a decorated executive to the Showboat team,” said Blatstein, the owner of the Showboat through his Philadelphia-based Tower Investments real estate firm.

 “Anthony has the experience and qualities that will ensure he is a valuable asset not only to our Showboat family, but also the entire community.”

The Showboat’s History

The Showboat was closed by Caesars in 2014 despite being a profitable business so that the Las Vegas-based operator could focus on its other AC casinos. In order to avoid competition from whoever bought it, Caesars put a deed restriction on the sale that would prevent it from returning as a casino for 10 years.

That deed restriction is set to expire in June, which could pave the way for a new casino on the site.

Blatstein acquired the Showboat Hotel from Stockton University in 2016 for $35 million.

The New Jersey-based university wanted to build student accommodation on the site. However, that plan failed, as basically all stakeholders apart from Stockton thought it was a bad idea. Local politicians, student leaders, and the casino operators themselves were all opposed to having thousands of students live right next to some of the biggest U.S. casino resorts.

Interestingly, four years later in 2020, the newly owned and renovated Showboat Hotel ended up hosting some 400 Stockton students for two years. The Hotel and Stockton linked up to alleviate pressure on campus housing requirements during COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

Shortly after Atlantic City reopened for business after the pandemic, Blatstein set about expanding the Showboat into a family-friendly entertainment venue.

In 2021, it opened the Lucky Snake Arcade, which has more than 300 arcade games, a boxing ring, e-sports gaming, miniature golf, a climbing wall, and VR gaming. In 2023, it opened a $100 million water park featuring six bars, various aquatic attractions including a wave pool, and a 30-foot-tall treehouse for late night partying.

Navigating Challenges into the Future

Since launching the water park, the venue has had to drop its entry prices twice, and has also cut its opening hours significantly.

That has led many to speculate the Showboat could rake back some of its investments by reopening part of the venue as a casino. The nine Atlantic City casino resorts made $2.84 billion in 2023, which was one record among many in the U.S. gambling business for the year.

That must be a tempting slice of pie for Blatstein to go after, and the appointment of Faranca certainly seems like a move in that direction.

Faranca’s expertise in managing large operations across various states, including casinos in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Jersey, could help him steer Showboat in a new direction. His background also includes managing expansion at the Live! Casino in Hanover, Maryland, where he led the launch of a successful addition to the list of Maryland retail sportsbooks, and opened a 5,000-seat event center.

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