History of Casino Gambling in Atlantic City

The issue of casino gambling first appeared on a ballot for New Jersey voters on November 5, 1974. This initial referendum was defeated in 19 of New Jersey's 21 counties, with about 60% of votes cast against it.

A revised referendum, limiting gambling exclusively to the city limits of Atlantic City, was placed on the ballot November 2, 1976. The second referendum was approved by a slim margin, with approximately 1.5 million voters in favor of it and 1.14 million opposed. Atlantic City's first casino, Resorts International, opened on May 26, 1978.

Casino Employment and Vendor Business

In 2012, the casino industry in New Jersey employed more than 34,145 people, not including those workers who work in leased stores and restaurants within the casinos. Casinos purchased over $1 billion in goods and services from 1,808 New Jersey businesses.

Casino Revenues

Casino finances are usually reported in terms of gross revenue which is the amount casinos win from gamblers after all payouts have been made. Gross revenues were $2.9 billion 2013.

Casino Tax and Reinvestment Obligations

The state's 8 percent tax on casino gross revenues is devoted to the Casino Revenue Fund which funds programs that provide resources and services to disabled and senior citizens. Casinos are also required to invest 1.25 percent of their gaming revenues into projects screened and approved by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA). With a mandate to revitalize urban centers throughout the state, CRDA has funded a wide array of infrastructure, housing, economic, cultural and social development projects. The CRDA has invested more than $1.8 billion in these projects to date.

Casino Regulatory Agencies

The state agencies responsible for regulation and oversight of the casino industry are the Casino Control Commission (CCC) and the Department of Law & Public Safety Division of Gaming Enforcement. Legislation and regulations governing the operation of casinos in New Jersey are regarded as models by other jurisdictions where gambling has been legalized.

Operating Dates for Atlantic City Casinos

Resorts International (later known as: Merv Griffin's Resorts; Resorts Casino Atlantic City)

May 26, 1978
Caesar's Boardwalk Regency (later known as: Caesar's Atlantic City) June 26, 1979
Bally's Park Place (later known as: Bally's Atlantic City) December 29, 1979
The Brighton (later known as: Sands Hotel and Casino)

August 11, 1980
Closed November 11, 2006
Buildings imploded October 18, 2007

Harrah's Casino Hotel November 23, 1980
Golden Nugget at Boston Avenue (later known as: Bally's Grand; The Grand; Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort; ACH; Atlantic Club Casino Hotel)

December 12, 1980
Closed January 2014

Del Webb's Claridge and Hi-Ho Casino (later known as: Bally's Park Place & Claridge Hotel)

July 20, 1981
Merged into Bally's December 30, 2002
Sold February 2014; no longer an operating casino

Playboy Hotel & Casino (later known as: Atlantis; Trump Regency; Trump's World Fair) April 1981
Closed 1999
Building demolished 2001
Tropicana Casino and Resort (later known as: TropWorld, Tropicana) November 26, 1981
Harrah's Boardwalk Hotel Casino at Trump Plaza (later known as: Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino.) May 26, 1984
Closed September 16, 2014
(Trump Plaza imploded February 17, 2021)
Trump Castle (later known as: Trump Marina Hotel and Casino; Golden Nugget in the Marina District) June 19, 1985
Showboat Casino Hotel

April 3, 1987
Closed August 31, 2014. Reopened as hotel only July 8, 2016

Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort (later known as Hard Rock Hotel & Casino) April 2, 1990
Closed October 10, 2016. Hard Rock opened June 27, 2018
Borgata Casino & Spa July 2, 2003
Revel Entertainment (later Ocean Casino Resort) May 25, 2012
Closed September 2, 2014. Ocean opened June 27, 2018

In July 2006, the casinos in Atlantic City were forced to cease gambling operations due to a state-wide budget crisis. State regulators, whose presence is required for gaming operations, were prohibited from working. The casino floors were closed for three days. Casinos were also shuttered during Hurricane Gloria in September 1985, Hurricane Irene in August 2011, and Superstorm Sandy in October and November 2012. On March 16, 2020, the casinos were forced to close temporarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


  • Transcripts of legislative hearings, government reports and studies from the early years of casino development in Atlantic City
  • Periodicals covering the casino industry, such as:
    • Casino Chronicle, a weekly summary of news, financial and other business data from Atlantic City's casinos and the industry in general
    • Michael Pollocks Gaming Industry Observer, a bi-monthly analytical report on casino business
    • Casino Connection, the official publication of the Atlantic City casino industry issued monthly
    • Casino Journal, a monthly publication for casino information from around the world
    • Casino Player, casino information from the gamblers point of view
  • Annual and quarterly reports from the New Jersey Casino Control Commission and the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority
  • The National Gambling Impact Study Commissions report issued in 1999

A number of books have been written examining the early and ongoing results of Atlantic City's experiment with gambling. These include:

Cialella, Edward Charles. Casino Gambling in New Jersey: A Case Study of Predictions. Ed.D dissertation, Temple University, 1984.
Examines the early outcome of predictions made by proponents and opponents of gambling legalization.

Demaris, Ovid. The Boardwalk Jungle. New York: Bantam, 1986.
Looks at organized crimes attempts to hijack Atlantic Citys nascent casino industry.

Mahon, Gigi. The Company that Bought the Boardwalk: A Reporters Story of How Resorts International Came to Atlantic City. New York: Random House, 1980.
Story of the first casino to open in Atlantic City, with extensive background on efforts to legalize gambling in New Jersey.

Pollock, Michael. Hostage to Fortune: Atlantic City and Casino Gambling. Princeton, NJ: Center for Analysis of Public Issues, 1987.
Overview of the combined impact of casino gambling and organized crime on Atlantic City. City politics and casino management are also examined.

Sternlieb, George and Hughes, James W. The Atlantic City Gamble. A Twentieth Century Fund Report. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983.
Authors present the case that, in the first five years, the social and economic impact of casino gambling failed to live up to its promise.

Teski, Marea, et al. A City Revitalized. The Elderly Lose at Monopoly. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1983.
Study of the "social dislocation and personal hardship connected with the revitalization" of Atlantic City following the legalization of casino gambling. Focus is on the city's senior citizens.