Atlantic Club PokerStars New Jersey

This is it: New Jersey’s Atlantic Club has shut its doors for good after a colorful 33-year run.

Once upon a time, the Atlantic Club was the top-earning casino in all of Atlantic City. Owned back then by Steve Wynn, commercials featured luminaries like Frank Sinatra, making the Atlantic Club the hip place to be for chi-chi East Coast gamblers.

But times change, and the Atlantic Club slowly found itself left behind by bigger and more modern casinos in the city – not to mention throughout the northeastern United States – eventually finding itself last among all Atlantic City casinos in revenue. At 12:01 am Monday morning, the inevitable finally happened: the Atlantic Club was shut down for good.

In reality, the casino had all but closed down several hours before this. Drink service ended sometime in the afternoon, and the bars and restaurants closed hours before the official closing. That just left a few loyal gamblers and dealers out on the casino floor as the final seconds of the casino’s life were counted down.

“It was incredibly sad,” said server Maureen Cohen after finishing her final shift. “Can you believe how pathetic it’s going to be to come over [a nearby] bridge and see a closed casino?”

Workers Left High and Dry

Many casino workers expressed their frustration at the lack of help they got from the state or city government. A total of 1,600 workers lost their jobs as a result of the casino and hotel shutting down; many of those were non-union and didn’t even receive a court-ordered $1,500 severance check.

“Where was our support?” asked cocktail server Kathy Buonasorte, who had worked at the casino for 28 years. “They all left us. No politician helped us. No one came to save us.”

Indeed, the casino had been looking for a lifeline for quite awhile before it hit bottom. Last year, it nearly found one in the form of PokerStars, which hoped to purchase the casino in an attempt to gain a foothold in the New Jersey (and more broadly, the American) gambling market. But that deal went up in flames: after deadlines passed and the casino found out that PokerStars might not be approved to buy the casino, the Atlantic Club backed out of the sale, leaving PokerStars on the hook for $11 million they had loaned the casino – money that was expected to be used towards the agreed-upon $15 million purchase price.

Fire Sale

With no other buyers on the horizon, the Atlantic Club eventually filed for bankruptcy in November. It was jointly purchased by Tropicana Entertainment and Caesars Entertainment for $23.4 million, though neither had any plans to utilize the casino itself. Tropicana now owns the casino’s customer lists as well as the physical table games and slot machines – which will be hauled out later this week – while Caesars now owns the attached casino, though it has no plans on how to immediately use it.

Opened in 1980, the Atlantic Club was originally known as the Golden Nugget, and was then owned by Steve Wynn. In later years, it would become known as the Grand, Bally’s Grand, and the Atlantic City Hilton. Its latest owners paid over $500 million to purchase the property in 2005.

In recent years, the Atlantic Club depended more on casual, low-stakes gamblers. This became an issue as more casinos were built in Pennsylvania, New York, and Delaware, leading more of their target clientele to gamble closer to their own homes.

The Atlantic Club is the first Atlantic City casino to close since 2006, when the Sands shut down.