Real estate developer Bart Blatstein and Florida-based hotel company TJM owe Atlantic City almost four million dollars in unpaid taxes from this year, according to the city’s tax sale list. Blatstein, who owns properties including the Showboat hotel and Garden Pier, is the city’s biggest property-tax debtor for 2018, closely followed by TJM, which owns the Claridge hotel and the closed Atlantic Club casino.
The two developers are responsible for almost half of the city’s $9.6 million in unpaid 2018 taxes.
The properties owned by Blatstein and TJM were not included in the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes arrangement that appeased the city’s operating casinos and staved off a near-default for Atlantic City in 2016.
The city’s prospects improved this year, with two closed casinos reopening as well as a city campus for Stockton University. State overseers agreed to keep Atlantic City property taxes flat this year at 1.798%. City officials even announced pay raises for city workers this week. But the PILOT agreement brings in less money than the casinos previously paid and the city is still dependent on property taxes from other land owners. The value of assessed land in the city has plummeted in the last decade and there are no obvious new sources of revenue for Atlantic City.
Blatstein declined to comment on his unpaid taxes. TJM did not respond to a message on Thursday morning.
Blatstein owes the city $2.3 million, according to the tax sale list. Half of his tax bill is for the Showboat, the other half is for properties including Garden Pier, the former volleyball courts next to the Showboat and a parcel in the Inlet. Blatstein appears to have paid the taxes for the Playground Pier, although the property shows up in the city’s tax database as owned by Caesars.
TJM owes the city $1.5 million for the Claridge and the Atlantic Club, per the list. The hotel company also faced a tax lien on the Atlantic Club last year, Route 40 reported.
Landowners in Atlantic City have long complained of unfair property assessments. The city’s financial crisis came to a head when multiple casinos were litigating their property valuation by the city. Borgata succeeded in winning a settlement from Atlantic City in 2016 as part of a rescue package overseen by Governor Chris Christie. Just days after the package was agreed, MGM bought half of the Borgata at a price that valued the property much higher than it had asserted during its tax litigation. Atlantic City last year issued debt to help pay taxes back to the Borgata.
Blatstein and TJM may claim that the properties they purchased were unfairly assessed by the city. The unused Garden Pier is assessed at $9.2 million. Blatstein acquired the Garden Pier from the city for $1.5 million. But the Showboat is assessed for $23 million, which was the price Blatstein paid in 2016 to buy the property from Stockton. The Showboat’s assessment was cut sharply from $275 million in 2015. The assessments for the Claridge and the Atlantic Club have also been cut dramatically since their purchase in 2014.