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Stockton president: Atlantic City campus ‘looking positive’

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The future of an Atlantic City campus for Stockton University is "looking positive," the university's president said Wednesday, but he offered no details on how the university would overcome Trump Entertainment Resorts' threat to block the conversion of the former Showboat casino property.

Stockton's plans to turn the casino into a campus for thousands of students has been in jeopardy since the announcement last week that Trump Entertainment opposed a college campus near its Trump Taj Mahal casino.

The company said it would use a 1988 legal covenant that limits the Showboat property's use to a first-class casino-hotel. The university purchased the property in December for $18 million.

"We met in closed session, and we discussed various options and any results will be made public when they are effective," Dean C. Pappas, chair of the Stockton University Board of Trustees, said after resuming the public portion of a special trustees meeting.

Herman Saatkamp, the president, said trustees "had a very positive discussion; things went quite well."

Any resulting actions would be public once executed, he said, asking the handful of students, staff, and reporters to "be patient and to wait until we can make announcements."

Asked about a timeline, Saatkamp said he wasn't sure: "I don't even know that there will be an announcement, let alone when."

Saatkamp said after the meeting that he thought the issue of the covenant had been resolved at the time of purchase.

"It was discussions, you'll find it in the contract … where it says the covenant was there, Caesars assumed responsibility and indemnifies us against it," he said Wednesday.

Asked whether his lawyers had advised him the covenant would not be an issue, Saatkamp said "the understanding … was it was not going to be an issue."

The purchase agreement with Caesars, the former owner of the Showboat property, does include a section noting the 1988 covenant.

Caesars "shall use commercially reasonable efforts … to obtain from Trump Taj (with such bankruptcy court approval) an executed written release of the Use Covenant," the contract reads.

If Trump enforces the covenant, Caesars "shall indemnify, defend and hold harmless [Stockton] from any liabilities arising out of or in connection with any claim or action by Trump Taj," it says.

Trump has said it does not want to deal with the potential issues of underage students living and studying next door to its casino. In a statement, the company has also said it told Stockton it could not waive its rights to the covenant because it was in bankruptcy.

Asked what Trump executives had told Stockton about the covenant, Saatkamp again demurred:

"I can't answer those questions right now," he said.

After the trustees meeting, Stockton University president Herman Saatkamp took a few questions from reporters. The audio is embedded below, and a transcript follows.

At this point, Sharon Schulman, Stockton's head of external affairs, jumps in — "I'm going to intervene" — and ends the questioning.