Steve Norton, Who Oversaw Opening of First Atlantic City Casino, Dead at 89

Posted on: November 14, 2023, 09:13h. 

Last updated on: November 14, 2023, 08:11h.

Former Resorts Atlantic City executive Steve Norton has died. Norton is best known for running the first commercial casino outside of Nevada in the US. He was 89.

Steve Norton Resorts Atlantic City casinos
Steve Norton oversaw the first opening of a casino outside of Nevada with Resorts in Atlantic City in 1978. Norton died this week at the age of 89. (Image: LinkedIn/Resorts/

On May 26, 1978, Norton helped open Resorts, the first casino in Atlantic City on the famed Boardwalk.

Norton joined the Resorts team in the early 1970s when the property was only a hotel. After New Jersey voters passed a statewide constitutional amendment in 1976 to allow casino gambling in Atlantic City, Norton, serving as executive vice president of the property, readied the destination for slot machines and table games.

Norton oversaw Resorts until the summer of 1990 when Las Vegas Sands and Sheldon Adelson poached him away to Southern Nevada. He served as president and chief operating officer of Sands, overseeing the Sands Resort and the opening of the Sands Expo Center.

However, his time in Vegas was short as Norton left Sands for Illinois to become president and COO of Argosy Gaming in early 1993. There, he oversaw the operations of five riverboat casinos and helped the company expand into Louisiana and Indianapolis.

Since 1998, he worked as a consultant to the gaming industry, advising companies and lawmakers on best business and regulatory practices.

Industry Titan

Norton arrived at Resorts after beginning his career in the hospitality industry. His first executive position was in the Bahamas, where he was vice president, treasurer, and comptroller of Paradise Island Limited.

He got his first taste of the gaming business in Nassau when the company opened the Paradise Island Hotel and Casino in 1968. The Paradise Island Hotel and Casino was the precursor to Atlantis.

During his storied career overseeing some of the world’s most famous casinos and their operating entities, his son says Norton recognized the importance of promoting responsible gambling.

He recognized early that the industry’s biggest threat to growth was the issue of problem gaming, so he led the charge in changing the way the industry addresses the critical issue and helped create the first programs that embraced education, recognition, and treatment of the disease,” said Rob Norton, a gaming executive at The Cordish Companies.

Norton was among the founders of the American Gaming Association, the DC-based lobbying group that works for the nation’s commercial and tribal gaming interests.

Lasting Impact

Today, Mark Giannantonio runs Resorts Atlantic City, a position he’s held for over a decade. Giannantonio additionally heads up the Casino Association of New Jersey, the collective voice of Trenton’s nine Atlantic City casinos.

Steve was an early and influential gaming executive in Atlantic City and at Resorts. He was an important leader in the Atlantic City market dating back to the 1970s. He was always a pleasure to speak with over the years and a true gentleman in our business,” said Giannantonio.

When Resorts became the first casino to open outside of Nevada, Norton said May 26, 1978, was pure chaos.

It was a madhouse,” Norton told the Associated Press last year. “There were so many cigarettes stubbed out on the floor that before long you couldn’t tell what color the carpet was.”

Resorts monopolized casino gambling in Atlantic City until Caesars became the second gaming resort to open on June 26, 1979.