by Wayne Parry
January 12, 2014
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — The embattled Atlantic Club Casino Hotel closed early Monday, a victim of the casino saturation taking place in the Northeast.
About 1,600 people lost their jobs at 12:01 a.m. as the 33-year-old casino shut its doors. Tearful employees embraced one another and exchanged goodbyes.
Struggling for years against newer, bigger casinos in Atlantic City and in neighboring states, the Atlantic Club sought a buyer for the last few years but was unable to attract one. It filed for bankruptcy in November and was sold for a combined $23.4 million just before Christmas to two competitors who will strip it for parts. Tropicana Entertainment bought the table games, slot machines and customer lists, while Caesars Entertainment bought the 801-room hotel, for which it has no immediate plans.
“I never thought it would end this way,” veteran cocktail server Catherine Irizarry said last month on the day the bankruptcy sale was finalized. “I came here from Caesars when it was the Golden Nugget because it was the hot place to work. I never thought it would go down. It’s sad.”
The Atlantic Club opened in December 1980 as the Golden Nugget, owned at the time by casino magnate Steve Wynn. It soon became Atlantic City’s top-earning casino, and its TV commercials featured Wynn bringing fresh towels to Frank Sinatra, who often performed there.
But over the years, as the Atlantic City casino market expanded, the casino changed hands several times and went through a handful of names: The Grand, Bally’s Grand, the Atlantic City Hilton, ACH and finally the Atlantic Club.
As newer casinos opened with 2,000 rooms and hot nightclubs, pools and spas, it was no longer so special. It lost market share to its local competitors, and the decline was hastened when the first Pennsylvania casino opened in 2006.
The Atlantic Club was more dependent than the others on convenience gamblers looking to play for a few hours, then drive or ride the bus back home. It struggled further as many of its best customers forsook it for gambling halls closer to their houses.
Contact: Michael Joe Murphy