Long before the rise of the famous casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey was already one of the most permissive states when it came to gaming. Indeed, without the lotteries frequently held in the state, we would not have such renowned colleges as Princeton or Queens College (now Rutgers).

What’s more is that it if wasn’t for the money they raised to support the troops, we may have even lost the American Revolution and still be under British rule!


Despite New Jersey’s long history of gaming, it was banned in the state from 1844 until 1939, when state voters approved gaming at the racetrack. This was followed in 1953 by the approval of bingo and raffles. In 1959, amusement games were also approved.

New Jersey also became the first to vote for a state lottery, launching the Pick 3 in 1975 — the first state lottery where you could choose your own numbers. Atlantic City then pushed back the boundaries once again in 1976 when the population voted to make it only the second state in the U.S. to allow casinos.

The first New Jersey casino was Resorts International, which was soon followed by others, resulting in 16 casinos opening in the late 70s and early 80s.

The arrival of gaming revitalized the fading fortunes of the coastal resort, which had been struggling to attract visitors for some time. Many of the new casinos were converted from failing hotels that had long since passed their prime.

The first casino, Resorts International was converted into the magnificent Chalfonte-Haddon Hotel, while the Tropicana grew from the frame of the Ambassador.

At its peak, Atlantic City was a sparkling playground to rival Las Vegas. Casinos were springing up everywhere, and the rich and famous came flocking to play, or in Mike Tyson’s case, to fight for world titles.

Beautiful though, the Atlantic City casino bubble was, like all bubbles, short-lived. With more and more states allowing casinos, their East Coast monopoly was soon eroded. Now, Atlantic City has just seven casinos; down from twelve in 2010. Hardly surprising when only 20 of the 50 U.S. states now have casino gaming available.


Fortunately, the original Resorts Casino, which started it all, is still with us, along with the Tropicana, the Borgata, Harrah’s, Caesars, Bally’s, and the Golden Nugget. However, the Atlantic Club is set to reopen as a water park and family leisure venue, and the future of the Trump Plaza remains in limbo.

On the plus side, there is hope that both the Trump Taj Mahal and the Revel will soon reopen under new names as did the Hard Rock Atlantic City and Ten, respectively.

One of the drivers behind the recent revival of Atlantic City has oddly been the online casino like 888 Casino.

While some might expect this to be another nail in the coffin of the casino industry, a technicality means that for an online gaming license to be issued in New Jersey, the servers have to be located within the casinos, adding significantly to their takings and perhaps creating an incentive for more people to stay at the table a little longer for another game of poker.

In February 2013, New Jersey became the third state in the U.S. to allow online casinos, and there was a synchronized launch of all the new operators on November 21 that year. Today, there are twelve different operators in the state, generating over $100 million in tax revenues.

Together, they would rank fifth on the income table, beating three of the traditional brick-and-mortar casinos at their own game.

The development of online gaming in New Jersey may ultimately boost takings at the real tables, too, as novices can get started at an online casino, learning the skills and rules of the games without the pressure of an audience, before trying the game in real life.

Whatever the future holds for New Jersey gaming, whether it’s online or on the boardwalks of Atlantic City, you can bet that it won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

With two new casinos on the horizon and a continuous rise in online slots and gambling, the roulette wheels will be spinning for a while yet. And with the state’s reputation for leading the way, who knows what gaming innovations lie around the corner for the next generation of players.