The story of Atlantic City gambling history is really sad. Atlantic City can be seen as a victim of progress as gambling moved to other locations.
Atlantic City History
The city as we now know it is located on Absecon Island in New Jersey. Originally occupied by Indian it has an interesting history. Later in 1670 it was owned by an Englishman who bought it for a song, 40 cents an acre. Nothing happened there until Jeremiah Leeds settled there in 1785. He was the first person to build a permanent structure on the island. It was a farming settlement called Leeds Plantation. After his death in 1838 his wife got permission to operate a tavern and boarding house.
Slowly it got occupied and by 1850 there were just seven permanent dwellings on the island of Absecon. The railroad arrived in 1852 and the invasion of tourists began. Richard Osbourne who bought the railroad named the terminus, Atlantic City. With the new railway transport link, the City became an important harbour. It was not until 1870 that the first road was completed to serve the mainland.
During the late 1870’s construction was booming with small hotels. Many of the island’s building were destroyed by a hurricane in 1880 but it was rebuilt because the infrastructure was already there. Construction continued and during 1902 the first luxury hotels were built on the seafront. Elegant restaurants also opened and the City became a proper seaside resort. It had a beautiful beach and board walk. Amusement arcades sprung up all on the newly constructed piers. A trolley service started up during 1915 and ran until 1955.
The City grew with many luxury hotels and summer houses being built for the middle classes, Boarding houses were built for the many casual visitors. It soon became the place to go with visiting entertainers from Vaudville to Hollywood. The new glamorous hotels started drawing visitors from all over the world.
World war II slowed down the development of the City and later national air travel offered more travel options so people started heading west. Atlantic City lost many visitors and became run down very quickly.
By the 1960s, the city was in a state of disrepair. Many of the hotels were being closed and scores of others were being demolished. Only three of the original hotels now remain.
It was not until 1976 that the city had a change of fortune when gambling was legalised. The city has the resources but not the visitors so it was a cunning plan to legalize gambling.
The Atlantic City gambling history was born out of a need to utilise existing development in a place of beauty with rapidly dwindling numbers of visitors.
Atlantic City Gambling History
Illegal gambling had been going on in the City almost since it became developed but it was all underground. The State of New Jersey had been very tolerant to gambling, even as far back as the prohibition.
During 1970 a referendum voted with an 81.5% majority for the formation of a New Jersey Lottery. It was the first legal lottery in the US where players could choose their numbers.
In 1974 the result of another New Jersey referendum defeated legalisation of casinos. Two years later another referendum legalised casinos but restricted them to Atlantic City. The first casino, Resorts Atlantic City was opened during 1978. It operated until 2006 when it had to close for a while because of short comings in the funding of the New Jersey Casino Control Commission.
After the funding problem was resolved the Resorts Atlantic City re-opened and many new casinos were opened. Caesars Boardwalk and Ballys Park Palace opened during 1979. Three new casinos were opened during 1980, The Brighton, Harrahs and the Golden Nugget. During 1981 three more were opened, the Playboy, Claridges and the Tropicana. Harrahs, Trump Castle and the Showboat opened during the mid eighties. During 1990 the Trump Taj Majal Casino Resort was opened, followed by the Borgata in 2003. Update March 2017: The Trump Taj Mahal casino was recently purchased by Hard Rock International and is now being re-branded.
The State of New Jersey permitted other casinos to open and Atlantic City gambling became a less attractive option. As many as six casinos closed between 1999 and 2014. The story of Atlantic City gambling is a sad one, the city was hit by another hurricane and then the global recession. Now Atlantic City has one of the highest unemployment rates in the US.
The many new gambling resorts on the East Coast of the US have destroyed the City as a gambling destination. The locals say the only way for Atlantic City to recover is to take advantage of it as a place of natural beauty and perhaps benefit from eco-tourism. Since city declined, wildlife has recovered and it is a tranquil location. However it is not likely to see anywhere the visitor numbers it used to. Crime rates are high due to unemployment so re-invention is a gamble.
Atlantic City gambling history may end with this chapter. The Resort itself is still popular with visitors from all over the US, particularly the eastern side but more east coast casinos resort are opening which might affect the future success of Atlantic City.
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