The Story of Atlantic City Casinos

At the same time but on the opposite side of the country, a small, once-famous area along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean had fallen into decay.

Its city leaders looked to the example of economic independence set by Las Vegas and wondered if they could repeat the magic there. In 1976 New Jersey residents approved legalization allowing gambling in Atlantic City, with its first casino, Resorts International, opening its doors in 1978. However, the instant fame and economic boom that seemed so easy for Las Vegas remained elusive for this new East Coast gambling center. With extensive restrictions placed on the casinos, payoff amounts, and the games themselves, Atlantic City didn’t have the wide-open, anything-goes atmosphere associated with Las Vegas.

Moreover, Atlantic City’s close proximity to other urban areas, such as New York, Washington, DC, and Philadelphia, brought a day-use-only crowd. People weren’t spending nights in the hotels, dining in the nearby restaurants, or shopping. Sure, they came by the busloads, but with one purpose in mind: to gamble. Mismanagement and neglect by government leaders regarding casino regulations also caused this area to fail to attain its goal of becoming the Las Vegas of the East. Throughout much of the 1980s, with only a limited number of casinos in operation and lackluster revenues, the area seemed to the casual observer to be a bust. Yet, through slow and steady progress, especially with such innovative marketing promotions as highly popular “slot clubs,” Atlantic City casinos found success. Click here for a report detailing annual revenues since 1978.

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