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This month marks the 40th anniversary of legal casino gambling in Atlantic City. The seaside resort town was the first place in the United States to offer legal gambling outside of Nevada. The first legal casino in Atlantic City opened its doors 40 years ago on May 26.
Atlantic City was the garden of gambling abundance until surrounding states followed New Jersey’s lead and legalized their own casino gaming. Though the city is now better known for its casino closures, bankruptcy, and financial struggles, it was not always had times.
Back in the mid-’80s, Steve Wynn successfully lured the star of Las Vegas, Frank Sinatra, over to his Atlantic City resort. Sinatra’s relationship with Atlantic City was not without controversy, but he ultimately returned to the town year-after-year to perform until 1994, when he retired due to health complications.
Atlantic City hit its stride in the mid-2000s. In 2005 the town’s gross gaming revenue peaked $5.2 billion – a figure it has yet to see again. Everything was coming up roses until abandoned projects turned parts of the garden into a wasteland of abandoned lots.
A gaping wound from Atlantic City’s sudden financial downturn still shows today: the abandoned lot in the center of town where Pinnacle once planned to build a multibillion-dollar resort. Pinnacle abandoned their plans due to the downturn in financial projections, leaving the lot bare since 2007.
Things are looking up once again for Atlantic City, thanks in large part to revenue from online gambling.