Origin of Casino Culture in New Jersey

Origin of Casino Culture in New Jersey

If you look at New Jersey now, you will find that it has become a Mecca for casino gaming enthusiasts and is scattered with some of the most prominent casinos in the world like Hard Rock Hotel Casino. But little do people know that the city has a long history of gambling activities that have withstood numerous economic and legal hassles and is now regaining its lost glory. Let us take a glimpse into the past on how the city became acquainted with the gambling culture.

Origin of Casino Culture in New Jersey

Before 1970

Between 1870-1970, the city was highly reliable on tourists for their economy and encouraged business owners to offer them with alcohol. During this period, the city was run by underground bosses like Enoch L. “Nucky” Johnson who controlled every operation from the city’s law enforcement to smuggling operations Atlantic City, in particular, quickly became a haven for alcoholics due to its beachfront docks which made it easier for bringing in the supply through the shores.

The 1970s

By the early 1970s, New Jersey faced a peculiar problem. The state failed to attract enough visitors to keep their resorts running. Most of the resort owners sold their establishments to housing projects or closed them down. Only a few survived this grim scenario like the Dennis, the Madison and the Ambassador. To get out of this problem, the city decided on legalizing gambling operations to boost its economy.

After Nevada, New Jersey became the second state in the US to legalize casino operations. At that time, the State permitted the gambling activities so that they could raise funds for the elderly as well as the disabled.

In 1978, the first casino was established in New Jersey called the Resorts International Casino which was renovated from the Chalfonte-Haddon Hotel. This was a significant milestone in the history of New Jersey gambling operations. In the next few years, New Jersey, especially Atlantic City saw a slew of premium casinos (more than 16) popping up all over the city.

The 1980s

Although Nevada had a prolonged history of gambling scenes compared to New Jersey, its popularity dwindled at a certain period of time during the 1980s (when the city registered a high crime rate and gaming organised crimes). During this time, the city also gained a lot of attention from tourists due to several boxing matches of Mike Tyson.

Still, the city failed to put a significant mark to hail itself as the leading gambling destination of the world. This was at a point of time when other cities were also legalising gambling such as the East Coast.

By the late 1980s, a number of casino constructions initiated in New Jersey. Brighton which would be later named as the Sands Hotel and Casino opened up in this period of time. Following this, other casinos opened up like the Golden Nugget at Boston Avenue (later renamed as the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel) and the Harrah’s Casino Hotel. The Playboy Hotel & Casino and Tropicana Casino and Resort opened after this which attracted a lot of gamblers from all around the world. Harrah’s Boardwalk Hotel Casino at Trump Plaza was established in 1984 and it was followed by the Trump Castle(later renamed as the Trump Marina Hotel and Casino, followed by the Golden Nugget in the Marina District). With so many casinos opening up one after the another, the gaming revenues rose thanks to the huge influx of tourists from all over the world.

The 1990s-2000s

By the 2000s, the local casino business in New Jersey seemed to belong to one real-estate developer Donald Trump (you must know him by now!). He owned Trump Plaza, Trump Taj Mahal and Trump Castle and promoted his properties to increase tourism such as wrestling matches and major boxing events featuring Mike Tyson in the city.


Online gambling was restricted under two laws: The Federal Wire Act and the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). On February 26, 2013, NJ Governor Chris Christie signed a bill which authorised licenses for online gaming sites which partnered with existing land-based regular casinos based in Atlantic City. Caesars Entertainment was the first to provide online casino service in the city and things have never been the same since then.


Name: Origin of Casino Culture in New Jersey
Author: Emma Ward
Published Date: 09/09/2019