The American gambling industry has Las Vegas to the west and Atlantic City to the east. Situated on the New Jersey coast, Atlantic City is the natural second choice for the millions of players who visit the city and its superb casinos every year. So even though it has hit hard times recently, Atlantic City still holds a special place in the American and global gaming industries.
The founding and development of Atlantic City
Atlantic City was founded in 1854 between the marshes and the Atlantic Ocean and has always benefited from its geographical location which has made it popular with property developers and those who appreciate life by the sea. For a while the city was considered a leading spa destination. Atlantic City also benefited from its proximity to Philadelphia and its potential markets. However, early on, sand hindered the development of businesses by the Atlantic coast. To counteract this a wooden promenade was constructed on part of the beach in 1870 and “Boardman’s Walk” as it was known was extended many times. Now, the Boardwalk is the longest coastal promenade of its type. The city developed around it and the port.
The rise of Atlantic City’s casinos
Similar to Las Vegas, Atlantic city’s casino industry was mostly developed by Mafia leaders. At the start of the 20th century, Enoch L. Johnson, a leading Mafia godfather, arrived in Atlantic city with the intention of making it a tolerant, liberal and entertaining city. Even though prohibition and the ban on games of chance had been in place since 1910, contraband and gambling dens flourished in Atlantic City. So until the second part of the 70s, gambling developed underground. At the same time, Las Vegas, where gambling had been legal since 1931, was way ahead of Atlantic City where it was 1976 before legislation legalising gambling in New Jersey was passed. Two years later, in May 1978, Resorts International, the first ever legal casino in the eastern United States, opened.
In the following years the construction of casinos with their neon lights greatly altered the urban landscape of Atlantic City especially along the Boardwalk and around the Marina. Tourism exploded with visitor numbers increasing from 700 000 in 1978 to more than 33 million annually in 1988. The 1980s also saw the involvement of casino tycoons in Atlantic City’s gambling industry. Donald Trump invested large amounts in organising boxing galas to attract more visitors and at the end of the 1980s Steve Wynn, owner of the Mirage and the Bellagio followed in his footsteps.
Atlantic City’s Casinos
Atlantic City had a dozen casinos but many casinos closed in 2014. The following are the main ones:
- Hilton Atlantic City Casino. This was the first real hotel-casino in Atlantic City. It was built as the “Golden Nugget Atlantic City” by Steve Wynn in 1980. It was sold to “Bally’s Entertainment Corporation” and got its current name when Bally’s was taken over by the Hilton group. The complex includes an 800 room hotel and a 7000 square metre casino.
- Bally’s Atlantic City Casino. Opened on the Boardwalk in 1979, this hotel-casino is among the largest in Atlantic City. The complex includes almost 2000 hotel rooms, 21 restaurants and 2 casinos covering 20 000 square metres: Bally’s Casino and the Wild Wild West Casino. Together they offer more than 5000 slot machines and numerous gaming tables.
- Caesar’s Atlantic City : Themed on Ancient Rome like the Las Vegas Caesar’s Palace, this was Atlantic City’s second hotel-casino to be built. In its 13 500 square metre casino, over 3500 slot machines and 135 gaming tables are open to the public all year round.
- Borgata Casino : Opened in July 2003, the Borgata Hotel is owned by the Marina district Development group. The complex has about 2000 rooms and a 12 000 square metre casino
- Harrah’s Resort & Casino Atlantic City : Owned by Caesar’s entertainment Group, Harrah’s Resort & Casino Atlantic City offers almost 4000 slot machines and 150 gaming tables in a luxurious 16 000 square metre casino.