Atlantic City Archives: A Fairy Tale Ending For Trump’s Castle

Posted By Steve Ruddock on June 26, 2015 - Last Updated on June 25, 2015

How convoluted is the history of Atlantic City’s casino industry?

Consider for a moment that the current Golden Nugget Casino is the second time an Atlantic City casino has operated under that name, and that the present Golden Nugget has gone through four names and three owners since the project was originally conceived in the 1980’s.

The  Golden Nugget as we know it today was originally built by Hilton Hotels back in the early 80’s.

However, Hilton never operated the property as it was unable to secure a gambling license due to alleged organized crime ties – this was the 1980’s, remember – and that little hiccup allowed Donald Trump to swoop in and purchase the nearly complete property.

Trump called his new casino Trump’s Castle, and the property opened its doors in 1985, just a year after Trump opened the Trump Plaza in 1984.

Trump’s Castle and Trump Marina

Trump’s Castle was unique due to its location.

The casino was located not on the famed Atlantic City Boardwalk with all of the other casinos, but in the Marina District of Atlantic City.

Unfortunately for Trump’s Castle, this uniqueness wasn’t all sunshine and puppies.

Trump’s Castle lacked direct access to the Atlantic City Expressway, and was basically a lone outpost of gambling away from the hustle and bustle of the Atlantic City Boardwalk. While not a failure, the casino never captured the imagination like some other New Jersey casino properties did.

The casino’s location eventually resulted in a name change in 1997, when Trump’s Castle turned into Trump Marina. It also received a bit of company in the interim as several other casinos decided the Marina District would make a good location, beginning with Showboat Casino in 1987.

Not that Golden Nugget, this Golden Nugget

In 2011 the Trump Marina was sold during one of Trump Entertainment’s numerous bankruptcy filings.

The property was purchased by Landry’s Inc., the current owners of the fabled Golden Nugget Casino brand. On May 23, 2011 the Hilton/Trump’s Castle/Trump Marina casino began its fourth iteration as it reopened under the name Golden Nugget.

This name change likely confused longtime Atlantic City residents and visitors as the original Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City (built by Steve Wynn) opened its doors in 1980 on the southern end of the Boardwalk. That casino was one of the city’s most popular during its seven-year run under the Golden Nugget name.

In 1987 Wynn, after a fallout with the city, sold the casino to Bally’s who renamed it Bally’s Grand.

Like the current Golden Nugget, the original Golden Nugget went through a number of names and owners – Golden Nugget, Bally’s Grand, Atlantic City Hilton and ACH, and finally the Atlantic Club – before finally closing its doors in January of 2014.

Golden Nugget’s rebirth

The current Golden Nugget survived the “Great Casino purge of 2014” that consumed not only the Atlantic Club, but Showboat, Trump Plaza, and Revel. Not only did the Golden Nugget survive, but the casino seems to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the city’s casino contraction.

The property is still one of the lowest revenue generators in 2015, but the casino is on an upward trajectory.

Golden Nugget saw massive year-over-year revenue growth from 2013 to 2014, as the casino’s total GGR jumped from $124 million in 2013 to $172 million in 2014, including $10.8 million from legal online gambling (more on this in a moment).

In 2015 Golden Nugget is doing even better.

In Q1 of 2014 Golden Nugget tallied $36,859. In Q1 of 2015 that number has grown to $49,831.

Total gross gaming revenue through May 2015 for Golden Nugget is $80 million, putting the casino on pace to reach almost $200 million in GGR in 2015. And keep in mind, this doesn’t include its Internet gaming revenue.

Is NJ online gambling the key?

In 2014 iGaming accounted for almost 7% of Golden Nugget’s total revenue – a respectable number.

Internet gaming will factor into the casino’s bottom line even more in 2015, as the casino is the number one online casino revenue generator in New Jersey.

Through May Golden Nugget has tallied $13.2 million in online gambling revenue, putting it on pace for $32 million in online gaming revenue alone in 2015. If these numbers hold, iGaming could account for as much as 15% of Golden Nugget’s total 2015 revenue.

In the end, it could be Internet gaming that gives the former Trump’s Castle Casino its fairy tale ending.

Image Joseph Sohm /

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Steve Ruddock

Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.

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