Atlantic City has been the home of a rotating network of casino properties and resorts since gambling was legalized in the late 1970s.
The hotels offered by these resorts range from five-star luxury to basic economy. Prices during the week are substantially lower than weekends. The best nights in terms of price are usually Sunday through Wednesday. Thursday may be moderately expensive compared to early weekdays. Saturday is by far the most expensive night of the week in Atlantic City, followed by Friday.
There are nine Atlantic City casinos open. Three are owned by Caesars Entertainment (Caesars sold Bally’s in 2020 but the sale is pending):
MGM Resorts owns the top-grossing casino-hotel, Borgata. ElDorado Resorts operates the Tropicana Atlantic City after a sale of the property in early 2018. Golden Nugget is owned by Landry’s Inc., and Resorts is independently owned.
Borgata, Golden Nugget and Harrah’s are in the Marina District. Bally’s, Caesars, Resorts, and Tropicana are on the Boardwalk.
In 2018, two casinos opened in preexisting, refurbished properties. Ocean Casino Resort, the former Revel, opened its doors the same day as Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City, which reopened in the former Trump Taj Mahal property.
For information about gambling revenue in Atlantic City, click here.
Atlantic City casinos in 2020
Here is a brief rundown of the nine casinos in Atlantic City:
Bally’s is on the Boardwalk and offers more than 100 table games and a poker room. Its hotel is perfect for budget-minded travelers. Wild Wild West, found along the Boardwalk under Bally’s, offers low-limit games and the largest sportsbook in Atlantic City at 15,228 square feet.
Located in the Marina District, Borgata is the flagship of Atlantic City. Owned by MGM Resorts, Borgata’s luxury resort is home to more than a dozen restaurants. It has a giant poker room and a sports and race book. The limits at Borgata are reasonable, with many $5 and $10 table game minimums. All blackjacks pay 3-2. Games with a minimum bet of $25 stand on all 17s.
Caesars is on the Boardwalk. It is owned by Caesars Entertainment and is a middle-tier resort with more than 100 table games. There are more than a dozen restaurants at Caesars, as well as two showrooms for entertainment.
Golden Nugget is a boutique hotel in the Marina District. It has several Landry’s restaurants on-site. All blackjacks pay 3-2 at Golden Nugget. Its hotel rooms are more modern than most in Atlantic City, and there is a walking trail between Harrah’s and Golden Nugget.
Hard Rock Atlantic City
Hard Rock AC opened its doors in summer 2018. The newly remodeled and redesigned building on the Boardwalk no longer bears any resemblance to the Trump Taj Mahal casino. The casino features 120 table games and a variety of entertainment options and restaurants.
Harrah’s is the Atlantic City flagship for Caesars Entertainment. Located in the Marina District, it offers more than 100 table games, as well as competitive video poker. There is an after-hours pool with the latest musical acts and DJs. Harrah’s is also home to a variety of dining establishments.
The repurposed Revel Hotel & Casino got a new name in early 2018 when the property was officially sold to AC Oceanwalk before transitioning ownership to Luxor Capital in early 2019. Ocean Casino opened its doors on June 28, 2018, and includes one of the more luxurious casino floors and a variety of high-end restaurants and shops. Ocean Casino is at the opposite end of the Boardwalk from Tropicana.
Resorts is the original Atlantic City casino. Having opened on the Boardwalk in 1978, it is smaller than its competitors but still retains its playing power. Resorts offers low limits for its table games. All blackjack games stand on all 17s and pay 3-2.
Tropicana has an old-school feel. It is on the far south end of the Boardwalk. All blackjack tables stand on all 17s and pay 3-2. Tropicana’s casino floor is separated into sections of slots and video poker.
Wild Wild West
Not usually counted among the casinos in Atlantic City, Wild Wild West is in the lower level of Bally’s. It offers $5 live table games, as well as some electronic ones with even lower limits. Wild Wild West offers live entertainment, as well as two bars and restaurants.
Games at Atlantic City casinos
AC casino table games and casino video poker are everywhere in the resort town along with hundreds of slot machines. Most are similar or share the same names as online casino games, but some are exclusive to one or two casinos.
Atlantic City sports betting
New Jersey legalized sports betting in January 2012 after voters passed a nonbinding referendum instructing the New Jersey Legislature to pass it. But the major sports leagues took issue with this.
New Jersey was not exempted under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). Even Delaware, which was exempted under PASPA, lost its own fight with the sports leagues in 2009 and was forced to only offer parlay cards.
The fight between New Jersey and the sports leagues came to an end on May 14, 2018, when the US Supreme Court ruled that PASPA was unconstitutional. After that, the floodgates opened, and AC casinos and NJ online gambling sites got quickly up and running with sportsbooks once the NJ sports betting law and regulations were finalized.
Eight Atlantic City casinos now have retail sportsbooks up and running.
Closed Atlantic City casinos
The Atlantic Club Casino Hotel (closed Jan. 13, 2014)
The Atlantic Club Casino Hotel was actually Atlantic City’s original Golden Nugget.
The property opened as The Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino in 1980. It was one of the smallest casinos in the city, but by 1983, it was the top-grossing.
Golden Nugget owner Steve Wynn sold the casino for $440 million to Bally Manufacturing in 1987 and the name changed to Bally’s Grand Hotel and Casino.
Hilton Hotels Corporation bought Bally and renamed the property Atlantic City Hilton in 1998.
In 2005, Resorts International bought the casino. It ran Resorts Atlantic City and the Atlantic City Hilton for the next four years as a single entity called Atlantic City Hilton and Resorts Atlantic City.
In June 2011, the Hilton name was removed and it became the ACH Casino Resort. In February 2012, it was rebranded as a locals casino and renamed The Atlantic Club Casino Hotel. By the end of the year, the parent company of online gaming giant PokerStars entered into discussion to buy the property.
Its eye was on legalized online gambling in New Jersey. A purchase agreement was struck in January 2013, but PokerStars pulled out after having difficulty obtaining a casino license.
Caesars Entertainment then sold to TJM Properties in 2014. TJM made plans to reopen it as a non-gaming property. The company announced in 2017 another developer would be purchasing the property and turning it into an indoor waterpark.
The financing for this project ultimately fell through.
Showboat Atlantic City (closed Aug. 31, 2014)
The Showboat Hotel, Casino and Bowling Center opened in March 1987 on land leased from Resorts International right beside where the soon-to-be Trump Taj Mahal was under construction. The Showboat featured a 60,000-square-foot casino and a 60-lane bowling alley.
A 1995 renovation brought in a Mardi Gras theme. Three years later, Harrah’s Entertainment, which is now Caesars Entertainment, bought the Showboat’s parent company and took ownership.
The bowling alley became a buffet in 2001. In 2003, Showboat built a new hotel tower and remodeled the original. It also constructed a third hotel tower. But by June 2014, Caesars Entertainment made plans to close down the Showboat. The company looked to sell, but after failing to find a suitable buyer, the Showboat shuttered on Aug. 31, 2014.
In December of that year, Richard Stockton College bought the property with plans to turn it into a college campus.
They later sold it to Philadelphia developer Bart Blatstein, who reopened it as a non-gaming hotel in July 2016. Plans currently include an indoor water park on the parking lot next door to Showboat.
Trump Plaza (closed Sept. 16, 2014)
The $210 million Harrah’s at Trump Plaza opened up as the biggest casino in Atlantic City history on May 14, 1984. It was a joint partnership between Donald Trump and Holiday Inn’s gaming division Harrah’s. It originally featured 614 rooms, seven restaurants, a 750-seat showroom, and a 60,000 square foot casino.
Competitor Hilton was soon denied a casino license on its $320 million Atlantic City Marina casino project under construction nearby. Trump came in and bought out Hilton, finished construction and opened it up as Trump Castle. Harrah’s sued Trump, claiming a conflict of interest. Trump bought out Harrah’s interest in Harrah’s at Trump Plaza and renamed it Trump Plaza.
Trump continued building an empire in Atlantic City over the next decade, buying up existing casinos and construction projects. However, when he opened up the even larger Trump Taj Mahal in 1990, business at Trump Plaza suffered.
The property went through a bankruptcy in 1992. Trump’s publicly-traded Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts ultimately gained ownership. A new East Tower opened in early 1996 as did a connection to the new Trump World’s Fair.
In 2011, with Trump almost completely divested in the company, Trump Entertainment Resorts announced it was looking to sell Trump Plaza or find a financing partner for a new renovation. At least one deal to sell fell through. By July 2014, the company said it would soon shut Trump Plaza down.
In August 2014, Trump filed a lawsuit demanding the property remove his name. On Sept. 16, 2014, Trump Plaza shut down.
In June 2020, the AC mayor announced that Carl Icahn submitted a plan for the Trump Plaza demolition to take place in 2021.
A brief history of Atlantic City
New Jersey voters amended the State Constitution in 1976 to allow casino-style gambling. It became the second state after Nevada to legalize casinos. They were restricted to Atlantic City. No other parts of the state could build casinos.
On May 28, 1978, Resorts International opened as the first casino in Atlantic City. There are currently nine hotel-casinos located in the resort city.
Borgata is by far the biggest winner in terms of casino revenue. It was built in 2003. Only one casino has been built since Borgata. Revel opened in March 2012. But it fell into bankruptcy within a year after it failed to attract gamblers with its attempt to be a resort first and casino second.
New Jersey has fallen on hard times as neighboring states have legalized casinos. Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun began drawing gamblers from New York City in 1992. Today, casinos are now found in all states that border New Jersey.
This has forced New Jersey out of the second-place spot in terms of gaming revenue. Pennsylvania now has that honor.
NJ online gambling goes live
Former Gov. Chris Christie signed online gambling into law on Feb. 26, 2013. This legalized NJ online poker and online casinos in the state. Any player located within New Jersey at the time of login will be able to play interactive real money games.
Christie had twice vetoed legislation before finally signing it into law.
In March 2011, Christie outright vetoed similar legislation after citing that he felt it would take a change to the New Jersey Constitution to allow gambling outside of Atlantic City, regardless of where the actual servers were located.
On Feb. 7, 2013, Christie apparently changed his mind. While he still vetoed the bill in front of him, it was only a conditional one. He instructed the legislature to raise the tax rate from 10 percent to 15 percent and add more funds to the problem gambling services provided under the law.
The legislature approved his wishes.