May 26th, 2018 will be the anniversary of the 40-year marriage between legal casinos and Atlantic City, New Jersey. Before 1976, legal casinos in the United States only existed in Nevada and the idea of legal casinos was shot down in 1974 by New Jersey voters but 2 years later the majority opinion would change. In 1976 New Jersey approved casino gambling but limited it to Atlantic City. It took 2 years for the first Atlantic City to open but in 1978, Atlantic City first opened its theoretical doors with the completion of Resorts Atlantic City. The infrastructure of Atlantic City would forever change since that moment.
Frank Sinatra’s Beef
Over the years there have been many stories associated with Atlantic City casinos, some good, some bad but the lessons learned and impacts the city has left on society will last forever. One of the first unforgettable stories to come from Atlantic City was the Frank Sinatra debacle. Sinatra was a singer and actor who was known as the casino headliner in prominent circles. One night after his performance at the Atlantic City Golden Nugget, Sinatra was playing Blackjack where he insisted that the dealer dealt from his hand instead of from a card shoe. He threatened to terminate his casino contract if the dealer didn’t oblige. The dealer did oblige but was later suspended for his actions and the casino was also fined $25k. The following year Sinatra canceled his Atlantic City performance but would eventually make his way back to the city by 1985.
Brian Molony Blows $10m
In 1985 the Brian Molony scandal came to life and was quickly recognized as one of the worst financial scandals of the legal casino era. Brian Molony was a bank employee that embezzled $10m and lost it all at Atlantic City casinos. The Caesars Boardwalk Regency Hotel and Casino never questioned the source of Molony’s cash and was ordered to shut down for 24 hours when the scandal was finally exposed. Molony was convicted and sentenced to 6 years in jail, he was released after 2.
The Money A Flowing And A Going
The Mid-2000’s was a great time for Atlantic City casinos in terms of revenue. By 2005, gross gaming revenues topped $5 billion. It looked as if the sky was the limit as revenues had continued to gain over the past few years. More casinos were interested in moving into Atlantic City and by 2007 Pinnacle Entertainment moved into the city with the purchase of the Sands casino. It was the first real attempt at a multi-billion-dollar beach casino. However, by that time neighboring states had begun to allow casino gambling and started pulling at the Atlantic City market. Eventually, 5 of the 12 Atlantic City casinos would close their doors and Pinnacle backed out of their deal leaving a big empty lot in the center of town.
The Trump Era
During Atlantic Cities glory days Donald Trump-owned 3 Atlantic City casinos. Today all of them have transferred ownership or closed for good. While Trump was a primary investor in Atlantic City he had some hard times there. In the beginning, Trump was responsible for bringing the best entertainment to the city. He had an exclusive contract with the heavyweight champion boxer Mike Tyson, making Atlantic City the world’s boxing capital for several years.
His troubles really started in the late 80’s when a few of his deals didn’t pan out the way he would have liked. He purchased what was known as the world’s most luxurious yacht for $29m and invited a media storm to the vessel upon its arrival in the US. Unfortunately, his plan backfired, the weather didn’t cooperate and the in fear of a lawsuit his team refused to let the media on the ship. The media went into a frenzy when they found out that one big-time tv crew did get invited on the ship. The incident resulted in a lot of bad press for Trump.
Another one of Trump’s mishaps occurred when David Hasselhoff was set to perform at the Trump Castle in Atlantic City in 1994. It was a pay-per-view event that was supposed to relaunch David’s career in the states. When David hit the stage, they realized that no one was watching and turned on the television to discover that there was a bigger event unfolding live on tv. OJ Simpson was leading the police on a chase in his Ford Bronco. This resulted in one of the biggest PPV television events in history.
40 Years In
Today there are 7 casinos still in operation in Atlantic City: Bally’s, Borgata, Caesars, Golden Nugget, Harrah’s, Resorts, and Tropicana. In 2017, Atlantic City gambling revenue set an annual revenue record with $2.6 billion, including online casinos. Many industry professionals believe the increased numbers show the industry is getting stronger. Before 2016, Atlantic City had faced a decade worth of declining revenue, so going into the green in 2016 was a big deal for the gambling city. Atlantic City is currently awaiting a Supreme Court Decision in the New Jersey vs. NCAA case. If the SCOTUS rules in favor of New Jersey it will likely start a legal sports betting trend phenomena across many states that have already drafted legislation to allow sports betting if the PAPSA act is overturned. The PAPSA act is the one thing that stands in Atlantic City’s way of increasing their revenue substantially in 2018.