Las Vegas may lay claim to the name in various advertising and marketing campaigns, but Atlantic City is truly America’s original Sin City.
Born as a seaside resort town on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic City quickly morphed into the kind of place where anything goes, with free flowing liquor and gambling throughout America’s era of Prohibition.
After an economic downturn, Atlantic City rose from the ashes as a hub for legal gambling and massive casino resorts in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and now sits at the forefront of legal and regulated online gambling in an effort to turn itself around once again.
Atlantic City’s gambling history
Atlantic City has been a haven for gamblers for decades. With railroad infrastructure already in place making it readily accessible, hotel construction boomed in the early 1900s and Atlantic City quickly became the East Coast’s premier resort destination.
The rest of the United States went dry in 1920 with the passage of Prohibition, but Atlantic City was anything but. Under the thumb of Atlantic County Republican Executive Committee boss Enoch L. “Nucky” Johnson, resort owners were encouraged to keep money flowing in the tourist-based economy by offering visitors whatever they wanted. What they wanted was alcohol, and of course, gambling.
Atlantic City called itself ‘The World’s Playground‘ and Johnson told everyone who would listen that the “whiskey, wine, women, song and slot machines” they wanted were available there. Johnson’s ties to organized crime figures of the day helped bring in all the alcohol and gambling Atlantic City could handle.
The city became the seaside speakeasy capital of America, with a plethora of booze on offer and any number of underground casino, bookmaking operations, and numbers rackets available for anyone who wanted to place a bet.
By 1941, Johnson, who reportedly earned a half a million dollars a year in kickbacks, was convicted on tax evasion charges and sentenced to ten years in a federal prison. Prohibition was ultimately repealed in 1933 and when the Second World War ended in 1945, Atlantic City fell on hard times. The tourist economy sunk and poverty and crime rose substantially over the next two decades. Several top Atlantic City hotels were shut down and torn down, or turned into something else.
By the mid-1970s, however, a new plan emerged to turn things around by actually making gambling in Atlantic City legal for the first time in history.
Voters rejected a referendum to allow gambling statewide in 1974, but in November 1976, a referendum passed that legalized gambling strictly inside the borders of Atlantic City. Within two years, Resorts Atlantic City became the first legalized Atlantic City casino to open to the public, on the same Boardwalk property where it is still open and operating today.
The next decade saw a huge boom in casino construction in Atlantic City that ended with the opening of the world’s largest casino at the time in April of 1990. The Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort reportedly cost $1 billion to build and was a gambling Mecca.
The 1990s and early 2000s saw Atlantic City casino revenues soar, peaking at $5.2 billion in 2006. Due to increased competition from regional casino properties across state lines, and the aging of several properties inside Atlantic City’s borders, the next decade saw those revenues decline by more than 50 percent. However, the industry managed to turn that decade-long slide around in 2016, posting a revenue increase for the first time in ten years, due in no small part to the introduction of online gambling.
Several casinos have changed names and owners over the years, while others have come and gone, including the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, which closed in the Fall of 2016. However, Atlantic City is still home to seven brick and mortar casinos. Alphabetically, these casinos are:
- Bally’s Atlantic City
- Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa
- Caesars Atlantic City
- Golden Nugget Hotel Casino
- Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City
- Resorts Casino Hotel
- Tropicana Casino And Resort
Atlantic City casinos go online
Atlantic City casinos ended the first decade of the new millennium in decline. Casino revenues were free falling, but in an effort to modernize and turn the fortunes of the Atlantic City casino industry around, politicians began considering the introduction of online gaming.
It looked like a good bet online gambling was headed to Atlantic City when the New Jersey State Legislature passed a bill to allow online gambling by New Jersey residents in January of 2011. The legislation dictated that online gambling servers must be located inside licensed Atlantic City casinos and all bets be made inside the state, but fearing that the legislation would help create various gambling hubs in other commercial locations across the state, Governor Chris Christie vetoed the bill.
New legislation was drafted ensuring Atlantic City casinos were the only commercial properties that could allow online gambling on site, and in February 2013, a revised bill allowing Internet gambling in Atlantic City for a 10-year trial period was approved and signed into law.
The law dictated that only already licensed Atlantic City casinos could apply for and be granted online casino licenses. It also placed a 15 percent tax on all online gambling revenue, and to ensure the long -term health of the Atlantic City casino industry, the new law also mandated Atlantic City casinos reinvest 1.25 percent of their revenue from both brick and mortar and internet gaming into capital projects to create jobs and benefit Atlantic City as a whole.
The law requires players to access the online casinos from inside the state and that the casinos themselves ensure this using geolocation software. Players do not have to be residents to gamble online, but they must be able to prove they are within the state’s borders.
Within a year, a number of Atlantic City casinos took up the offer, applied for, and were granted licenses to begin a new era of legal iGaming in Atlantic City. Of these Atlantic City casinos, five are still running online casino operations today, including Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, Caesars Atlantic City, Golden Nugget Hotel Casino, Resorts Casino Hotel, and Tropicana Casino And Resort.
These five operators now run twenty different legal and regulated online poker and casino websites in Atlantic City, catering only to players inside the state’s borders in accordance with the new online gambling regulations.
- Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa has BorgataCasino.com, BorgataPoker.com, NJ.Partypoker.com, PalaCasino.com, and PalaBingoUSA.com.
- Caesars Atlantic City runs CaesarsCasino.com, HarrahsCasino.com, WSOP.com, US.888.com US.888poker.com and US.888casino.com.
- The Golden Nugget Hotel Casino operates GoldenNuggetCasino.com NJ-Casino.GoldenNuggetCasino.com, BetfairCasino.com and PlaySugarhouse.com.
- Resorts Casino Hotel owns ResortsCasino.com, MoheganSunCasino.com, and PokerStarsCasinoNJ.com.
- Tropicana Casino And Resort runs TropicanaCasino.com and VirginCasino.com.
Online casino operations in Atlantic City began with a five-day test period on November 21, 2013 and the market opened up to the public completely on November 26, 2013.
Atlantic City’s new online casino industry reportedly earned as much as $100 million in its first year of operation. By 2016, the gross revenue numbers have almost doubled.
The game is still the same
Atlantic City’s online casinos offer many of the same table games you might find at their brick and mortar owners, including blackjack, craps, roulette and various other casino card games. Some are now offering live dealer casino games online as well, including blackjack, roulette and baccarat.
Most also offer the same video poker machines you can find on the land-based properties, including Bonus Poker, Double Bonus Poker, and Deuces Wild.
The most popular games at Atlantic City online casinos are also the most popular games inside the brick and mortar casinos. In fact, many of the same digital slot machines you can play live at Atlantic City casinos can be found online, including several slots with six-figure progressive jackpots. However, some Atlantic City online casinos also offer digital slots exclusively built for online play.
The online poker sites offer a selection of cash games and tournaments just like you might find in a live poker room. Several of the sites offer seasonal online championship events and give players the chance to win entry into live tournaments at brick and mortar casinos as well.
Sports betting is not available at Atlantic City online casinos in accordance with federal law.
Are Atlantic City online casinos safe?
Regulations are in place guaranteeing the safety of player funds and players’ personal information.
Online gaming regulations state that Atlantic City online casinos must maintain a bank account for all player funds separate from all other operating accounts to ensure security. The balance in the account must be greater than or equal to the total cashable balances of all player accounts, jackpots and pending withdrawals. However, players do run the risk of losing any balance left in their account should the account remain dormant for a period of one year, in accordance with online gaming regulations.
All of the online games go through a rigorous testing process run by the Division of Gaming Enforcement’s Technical Services Bureau, ensuring they are up to the legal standards in terms of honesty and fairness.
All this serves to guarantee the online casinos in Atlantic City are as safe and fair as their brick and mortar counterparts.
Is your personal information safe with Atlantic City online casinos?
In order to prevent fraud, money laundering and other criminal activity, Atlantic City’s online casinos are required by law to collect and verify certain personal from players. Fortunately, the same laws dictate exactly what they can and cannot do with that information, ensuring a player’s personal information is protected.
Atlantic City’s online casinos limit the amount players can deposit to aid problem gamblers. Just like the brick and mortar casinos, problem gamblers can add their name to a self-exclusion list that will block all access to Atlantic City casino websites. The self-exclusion form is available through the state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement.
The Division of Gaming Enforcement also offers players a formal dispute process should problems of any nature arise with any of Atlantic City’s licensed and regulated online casinos. After contacting the online casino, a player can file a dispute form with the Division of Gaming Enforcement.
Who ensures Atlantic City online casinos are safe?
The state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement and Casino Control Commission do their best to uphold the public confidence in the Atlantic City casino industry both online and off. The Casino Control Commission is a three-member board that defines all online casino regulations, and makes the final decision on licensing casinos and casino employees. It also handles appeals of any Division of Gaming Enforcement decisions.
The Division of Gaming Enforcement is a part of the state’s Attorney General’s Office. It investigates casino license applicants, makes licensing recommendations, regulates the operation of Atlantic City casinos and enforces state law when it comes to casino operations. The Division of Gaming Enforcement also publishes several public documents regarding the financial state of the industry and individual Atlantic City casinos, including a list of jackpots won that are over $75,000.
The Division of Gaming Enforcement’s stated mission is to protect the public interest by maintaining a legitimate and viable casino gaming industry, free from the influences of organized crime, and assuring the honesty, good character and integrity of casino owners, operators, employees and vendors.
An industry on the rise again
In January 2017, The Division of Gaming Enforcement released a report on Atlantic City casino revenues showing brick and mortar casinos earned $2.406 billion in 2016, down 0.3 percent from $2.414 billion in 2015.
However, internet gaming revenues of $196.7 million, a 32 percent increase from 2015, helped push total Atlantic City casino revenues up to $2.603 billion in 2016, an increase of 1.5 percent. This represented the first increase in Atlantic City Casino revenues in a decade, all thanks to the addition of online gambling.
With the state collecting eight percent of gross casino revenues and fifteen percent of gross internet gaming revenues, Atlantic City casinos paid over $205 million in state gaming taxes in 2016.
What can you expect from Atlantic City online casinos?
There are tons of advantages to online gambling via legal and regulated sites like those found in New jersey. Here are several of the most obvious ones:
- The risk of losing the money in your account at an Atlantic City online casino is practically zero. Account balances are held separately, and government agencies regulate the sites.
- The games are never rigged. It is extremely expensive and difficult for software to pass the stringent requirements set by the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement.
- Tons of games are available. Many of the world’s top slot manufacturers only work with legal, regulated online casinos. The reason for this is that they could lose their own valuable licenses if they did anything that could be considered illegal. This means that Atlantic City online casinos actually offer more variety of games than illegal offshore sites.
- Mobile compatibility is fantastic. Many people might not want to gamble when they’re at their computer at home, but if you’re waiting for a bus or even just lying on your couch, getting a few spins in at your favorite game on your phone is quite a bit more comfortable. And it’s way more comfortable than driving to Atlantic City.
If you live in New Jersey, it’s a no-brainer. Atlantic City online casinos are simply a better and safer way to take a risk than illegal sites.
Bet with your head, not over it. Call 1-800-GAMBLER if you have a gambling problem.