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The Casinos of Yesteryear

A list of the casinos that are no longer part of America’s Playground.

By Alison Baxter
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 2 | Posted Nov. 10, 2010

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Ever since the opening of the city’s first casino, Resorts International, on May 26, 1978, the gaming industry has become a very important part of Atlantic City’s overall history and culture. Along with Resorts, there are 10 other casinos operating currently in Atlantic City: Caesars, Bally’s, Harrah’s Resort, and the Showboat (all owned by Harrah’s Entertainment), the Hilton, Tropicana, Borgata and the three Trump Entertainment properties — Trump Plaza, Trump Marina and Trump Taj Mahal. These 11 casinos, however, are not the only ones that have existed in Atlantic City since gambling was legalized. Here is a look at the Atlantic City casinos that were.

The Sands

(At right, the implosion of the Sands on Oct. 18, 2007)

Opened originally as the Brighton Casino on Aug. 31, 1980, this casino was taken over and converted quickly into the former Sands Hotel and Casino by May 1981. At its peak, the Sands brought in top performers such as Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan and Robin Williams. Eventually, however, coming upon hard times, the Sands filed for bankruptcy in 1998. Purchased by Pinnacle Entertainment in 2006, the casino closed on Nov. 11 of that year. At the time of its closing, Sands was the smallest of all the casinos in Atlantic City. On Oct. 18, 2007, accompanied by a fireworks show, the Sands was imploded in the East Coast’s first ever casino-hotel implosion.

(See implosion of the Sands video by clicking here)

Playboy Casino

While Hugh Hefner and his bunnies are still alive and well, the casino bearing the same name as his magazine, Playboy Casino, is no longer. The Playboy faced many obstacles even before its opening in Atlantic City. Facing monetary concerns and needing $135 million in financing, Playboy Casino took on the Elsinore Corporation as a partner. The casino was issued a temporary permit by the Casino Control Commission (CCC) on April 4, 1981 and the cocktail bunnies opened the casino doors for business on April 14, 1981. While the casino showed a profit for the summer, they were still in need of a permanent license. The CCC questioned Playboy and Elsinore’s “suitability” for licensing. In the end, the CCC granted a permanent license to Elsinore and denied one to Playboy due to concerns about Playboy’s London casino operations. As a result, Playboy sold its shares to Elsinore.

Atlantis Casino

After having bought out Playboy, Elsinore Corporation took off the casino’s bunny ears and replaced Playboy’s famous logo with a seashell. After it closed, Playboy Casino was renamed the Atlantis Casino and opened in the summer of 1984, but did not fare much better than its predecessor, nor that of its namesake — the lost island of Atlantis. Just one year later, the Atlantis filed for bankruptcy. In 1989, following a previous hearing that denied the Atlantis a new license, the CCC ordered the Atlantis to shut down stating it was “no more able to conduct itself in a businesslike manner than it was at the casino license hearing,” making it A.C.’s first casino to go out of business.

Trump’s World Fair

After the close of the Atlantis Casino, Donald Trump purchased the property for $63 million and operated it as the Trump Regency, a non-casino hotel. Then, following a regulations change that allowed Trump to own four casinos, he re-opened the property on April 15, 1996 as Trump’s World Fair at Trump Plaza. Just a short three years later, claiming he wasn’t turning a profit, Trump closed his World Fair and the casino was demolished in 2001. Currently the land is empty and owned by a condominium developer.

Golden Nugget Atlantic City

Steve Wynn bought and tore down the Strand Motel on Boston Avenue and the Boardwalk to construct Atlantic City’s sixth casino, the Golden Nugget Atlantic City, which opened on Dec. 11, 1980. By 1983 it was Atlantic City’s top earning casino. Following licensing troubles and rumors surrounding connections with organized crime, Wynn decided to sell the Golden Nugget to Bally’s Entertainment Corporation and it became Bally’s Grand and then the Grand. In 1996 it was sold to Hilton and opened as the Atlantic City Hilton.

Trump Castle Hotel Casino

Originally built as a Hilton but denied a gambling license when the building was near completion, Trump purchased the casino and opened it in 1985 as the Trump Castle Hotel Casino. Twelve years later, Trump renamed the property Trump Marina in July 1997.

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1. TwoFeet32 said... on Nov 12, 2010 at 02:23PM

“Nice video. Good story too”

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2. Diane Bell said... on Dec 10, 2014 at 09:38PM

“My mom loved going there n went to the grand opening. She thought he was so handsome n actually got to meet Donald once n said he was a very nice man n down to earth back then . Not saying he has changed but I myself wouldnt know as I've never had the chance to go to any of these fine establishments being a single mom who cant afford to pay attention lol. But I do have a beautiful glass heart shaped serving platter that she had gotten one night while out with her girlfriends having a blast . I wonder if it is worth anything now . It looks like a Lennox n I believe thats what was on the box n its absolutely gorgeous! !!”

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