The Sapphire Anniversary: Resorts Celebrates 45 Years As Atlantic City’s First Casino

Written By David Danzis on May 26, 2023 - Last Updated on May 30, 2023
gamblers play slot machines resorts atlantic city 1978

Happy 45th Anniversary, Resorts Casino Hotel.

On May 26, 1978, Resorts International Casino & Hotel became the first legal gambling parlor in the United States outside Nevada. A line of well-dressed people waited on the Atlantic City Boardwalk for the casino doors to open at 10 a.m.

Once Resorts took that first bet, Atlantic City was never the same again.

The Jersey Shore became an East Coast gambling mecca. At its peak, 12 Atlantic City casinos generated upwards of $5.2 billion in gambling revenue in a single year (2006).

Today, there are nine Atlantic City casinos, which, combined with online gambling and sports betting, reported $4.7 billion in total gaming revenue in 2022, according to state gaming regulators.

All of it can be traced back to Resorts and that Memorial Day weekend in 1978.

So, here’s to Atlantic City’s first casino — the one and only, Resorts. Cheers.

Party time at Resorts Casino

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer in Atlantic City, and Resorts AC always plays a part in kickstarting the season.

On the beach in front of the casino, Mayor Marty Small Sr. and television star Kelsey Grammer participated in the Opening of the Sea ceremony. The now-annual tradition involves turning an oversized key in the sand to “unlock” the Atlantic Ocean and an AC Beach Patrol escort past the breakers and back to shore.

Resorts’ famous beach ball drop begins around 5 p.m.

The New York Bee Gees will be performing in the Superstar Theater to cap off the night. The Bee Gees had eight (yes, eight!) number-one songs in 1978, so a tribute band seems apropos.

Resorts’ history critical part of Atlantic City story

Just a quick history of Resorts.

The iconic building was once known as Chalfonte-Haddon Hall, which was actually two separate structures (Chalfonte Hotel and Haddon Hall) connected via a sky bridge.

During World War II, the hotel earned the nickname “Camp Boardwalk,” after it was leased by the US military for basic training operations. A few years later, it merged with the nearby Traymore Hotel to become a military hospital.

After the war, Chalfonte-Haddon Hall reverted back to a public hotel.

In 1976, Resorts International bought the hotel and some land around the AC Boardwalk for roughly $2.5 million.

Resorts has changed hands a few times in its 45-year history. Donald Trump and Merv Griffin each held a stake in AC’s original casino at one point.

In 2010, veteran AC casino executive Dennis Gomes and New York real estate investor Morris Bailey bought Resorts for $31.5 million. Gomes passed away in 2012.

Mohegan Gaming took over the day-to-day operations of Resorts in 2012 and assumed a minority ownership stake. Bailey remains the principal today.

Resorts Casino Hotel by the numbers

Take a look at how Resorts has evolved since first opening nearly 50 years ago.

  • Rooms/Suites: 942
  • Casino: 79,909 square-feet
  • Slots: 1,367
  • Tables: 75
  • Sportsbook: DraftKings NJ, 5,000 square-feet
  • Food/Beverage outlets: 23 (including food court)
  • Retail outlets: 7
  • Employees: 1,590 (as of March 2023)
  • Online skins: 5
  • Online sportsbook skins: 3
  • Theaters: 2
  • Pool: indoor/outdoor (renovated 2022)
  • Convention space: 64,000 square-feet
  • Convention meeting rooms: 24
  • Spa/Salon: 1
Photo by AP Photo
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Written by
David Danzis

David Danzis is the lead writer for PlayNJ. He is a New Jersey native and honors graduate of Rutgers University. As a newspaper reporter for the New Jersey Herald and Press of Atlantic City, David earned statewide awards for his coverage of politics, government, education, sports, and business. Today, he is PlayNJ’s Atlantic City “insider” and gaming industry expert on casinos, sports betting, and online gambling. David lives in Atlantic County, NJ with his wife and two children.

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