While we all can agree, Nevada may have one of the longest and definitely the most interesting history of all U.S. gaming areas, I feel the time has come to explore the history of the second oldest legal area (with full casino gaming) in America - Atlantic City!
It has been a little more than 18 years since Resorts International first opened its doors to usher in the casino era in Atlantic City. Being from New Jersey, I can say I remember it quite well!! The ‘official’ opening was on May 26, 1978 at 10:00 AM. That’s when then Governor Brendan Byrne cut the ceremonial ribbon allowing the masses, who gathered at that time, to enter the casino.
At one point, the line outside the casino stretching far along the boardwalk was so long, Resorts officials decided to place a sign outside stating “Two Hour Wait from this Point.” Today, it reminds me of a line waiting for a ride at Disneyland.........it was total madness!!
I remember listening to an all news station at work that day monitoring the situation, hearing about the long lines of gamblers waiting to get inside to play. At that time I decided - that’s not for me, no way was I going to get involved in that mess, although I secretly yearned to be there.
I thought back on all the trips I made to Atlantic City to witness the construction of the casino and set up of the slots. I even remember being at Resorts the weekend before they opened, looking into the not yet open casino with all the slots and tables ready to go! I continued to listen and watch on TV the reports of the casino’s opening when I got home from work that day. At about 9:00 PM it became too much! I called Resorts to see how the crowds were and much to my surprise a girl answered the phone and told me that she had just started her shift and that there were no lines waiting to get in!!
That was it! Two and one-half hours later we were on the boardwalk in Atlantic City about to enter the first AC casino on day one! True to the words of the girl I spoke to earlier, there were no lines waiting to get in. As we entered, we noticed many of the slots were out of order and the tables were so full, it was at times impossible to see the tables at all! After dumping a roll of dollars into one of the working slots I did manage to find, losing of course, I decided to try to get to a table. After all, if I couldn’t play at least I was going to get a couple of chips to take home as a souvenir.
Now I realize I should have taken a lot more than the three or four $1 pieces I did! Craps was definitely out - way too crowded. I did manage to finally get a seat at a $3 minimum blackjack table. The game was so slow due to the newness of the casino, dealers, pit crew and I assume the mass of people playing all day that I only played a few hands, pocketed a few $1 chips (what a dummy I was then) and decided it was time to go. All told, we probably spent only about an hour in the casino, not too bad considering it was five hours by car round trip! Those are my memories of the first casino in Atlantic City. To think now of the values of some of the chips that passed through my hands at Resorts and some of the other casinos over the years makes me just shudder. Too bad I was a novice collector back then.
I’ve titled this article Part One because in future issues of Chip Forum, I intend to look at each of the hotel/casinos in Atlantic City and give you a little history and some personal memories of each. Next month will feature the referendum, casino number one - Resorts International and the second AC casino - Caesars’ Boardwalk Regency.