New Jersey gambling regulators have closed a decades-old account used to pay out chips from Atlantic City’s short-lived Playboy casino.
The state Casino Control Commission approved closing the account during a public meeting on Sept. 13. The account’s sole purpose was to redeem cheques from the Playboy Hotel and Casino (and later the Atlantis Hotel and Casino) after Hugh Hefner was denied an Atlantic City casino license in 1982. The account was administered by the state treasury and funded with $875,000 when it was created in 1989.
However, much remains in the account, which will stay with the Unclaimed Property Administrator. State lawmakers would have to enact new legislation to redirect the remaining money, according to officials.
Atlantic City casino account a surprise
The account’s existence was relatively unknown until July when the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement issued an emergency order to immediately stop the redemption of Playboy casino chips. State gaming regulators admitted they only became aware of the account after someone recently attempted to cash in chips.
“Sufficient time has passed for actual Playboy patrons to have redeemed any gaming chips and/or (slot) tokens owned by Playboy.”
A piece of Atlantic City casino history found in Mississippi mud
DGE Director David Rebuck’s memo noted the account was being closed to preserve “public peace, health, safety, morals, good order and general welfare.” The order goes on to say the fund was not intended “for redemptions (of) chips subsequently acquired by other persons. Such fund was also not intended as a means to redeem chips that were supposed to have been destroyed but were not.”
That reference in Rebuck’s memo is a direct acknowledgment of millions of dollars in unclaimed chips that were found in Mississippi nearly 15 years ago. A construction worker unearthed a treasure trove of Playboy casino chips while excavating.
The ensuing rush to cash chips raised red flags with NJ gambling regulators, who assumed the cheques had been destroyed (as ordered).
Rebuck’s memo says four decades is “more than sufficient time for actual Playboy gamblers to have redeemed any chips or other instruments of gaming winnings owed by the former casino.” It further states:
“At this time, any such chips are most likely to have been obtained by gift, inheritance or sale from the secondary market. The fund held by (the state) Treasury was meant for the benefit of the original patrons who have winnings to claim. It was never intended to be an open-ended invitation for subsequent acquirers of such chips to cash them in.”
Brief history of Playboy casino in AC
The Playboy Hotel and Casino opened in April 1981. By 1984, Playboy’s partner, Elsinore, had to change the name of the property after Hefner’s license denial. The Atlantis Hotel and Casino shut down in 1989 when gaming regulators denied Elsinore a license renewal.
In June 1989, former US President Donald J. Trump paid $63 million for the property and renamed it Trump Regency.
The Regency name stayed until 1996 when it became Trump World’s Fair at Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino.