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A Short History of the Casinos of Atlantic City


New Jersey was the first state to legalize casinos outside of Las Vegas. On May 26, 1978, Resorts became the first casino to open on the east coast. Initially, they were allowed to operate only 18 hours a day during the week, and 20 hours on the weekend. As a result, people waited in long lines, stretching for blocks and days, to get inside. People had to wait for hours to get on slot machines, and craps and blackjack tables.

The Roman-themed Caesars opened in 1979. Bally's was t he third AC casino, and also opened in 1979. Harrah's opened in 1980. In December, 1980, the Golden Nugget was opened by Steve Wynn as the first luxury casino hotel. It was renamed the AC Hilton in 1998. The Tropicana opened in 1981. In 1984, Harrah's opened, and Donald Trump bought out Harrah's in 1986 and named it Trump Plaza. In 1985, Trump Castle opened, and was renovated and renamed Trump Marina in 1998. The Wild Wild West Casino opened at Bally's in 1997. The Cuban themed Quarter opened at the Tropicana in 2004.

The Claridge was acquired by Bally's in 2002. It originally opened in 1930, as the last of the great hotels in AC near the Boardwalk, and is the last one still standing. It continued to operate as a hotel despite the vacation downturn in AC in the 1960's, and survived into the casino era. It is now a preserved site.

In March 1987, the New Orleans themed Showboat opened. It was the only property to have a bowling alley, the first to have Keno, and the first to have poker in a separate room. Trump Taj Mahal opened in 1990, and was the largest at the time. It opened a new Chairman Tower in 2008.

Boyd Gaming and MGM jointly opened the Borgata ("Little Village" in Italian) in 2003. This up-scale resort started the trend toward AC changing from a "day-tripper" destination to a glamorous, high-end destination, with gourmet restaurants, elegant shops, and world-class entertainment. The bedding, robes, and towels were so popular, they are now offered on their web site. The Water Tower opened in 2008, and is the tallest building in New Jersey.

The Sands opened 27 years ago on the site of the Traymore Hotel. It was bought by Pinnacle Entertainment, and imploded in 16 seconds on 10/18/2007, observed by tens of thousands of people. This project is now on hold, as is the MGM plan to build a mega resort next to the Borgata, until the economy changes for the better.

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