Resorts International Casino - History

Resorts Casino
Resorts Casino. Photo Courtesy (Mohegan Sun)

Resorts International was the first Atlantic City casino opened after the state of New Jersey legalized gaming in 1976. The owners of Resorts had a head-start on the competition because they were well-financed and already owned an historic, 15-story skyscraper hotel built in the 1920's: Haddon Hall. By comparison, the Mapes Hotel in Reno was Nevada’s tallest building when it was finished in 1947 with only 12 floors.

Resorts International was formed in March 1968. The company spent $11 million to renovate Haddon Hall, including the Ocean Tower, which reopened in 1978 with 480 rooms. The tower still contains the main casino floor as well as dining, retail and the spa and pool. Guests also have access to Club 1133 and a 350-seat theater. Additional hotel rooms were found in the Atlantic Tower, which had 166-rooms for guests, but was demolished in 2002 to make way for the Rendezvous Tower.

Grand Opening

The Resorts International hotel and casino opened at 10am May 26, 1978 to huge, boisterous crowds. Casinos were only permitted to be open for 18-20 hours at the time. Once patrons made their way into the casino they found long waits for a chance to gamble. Although the resort boasted 84 table games and 893 slots, the crowds overwhelmed the 34,000-square feet of casino space, spilled into restaurants and taxed all aspects of the new property.

Slot machines were mandated to have at least an 86-percent payback for players. Table games were very similar to Las Vegas with Big Six Wheels, Craps, Roulette and many blackjack tables that boasted excellent house rules. There were no single-deck pitch games in the new casino, but that didn't stop the players from standing three-deep waiting to get a seat at the blackjack games!

In addition, card-counting at blackjack was considered a skill, not a violation of gaming law as Nevada seemed to consider it. As such, the casinos were required to allow all players to enjoy the tables, even if they might be able to make a profit with their counting ability. Eventually, Resorts  petitioned the commission for changes and even with known-players like Ken Uston suing, the games were changed to allow the casinos to shuffle-up and use other counter-measures to diminish the players’ ability to beat the games. Fortunately, the game of blackjack still offered in Atlantic City is one of the best in the world with a house edge of less than a half-of-a-percent.

Resorts really didn’t need to worry about the card counters as their casino was practically printing money as the only casino on the East Coast. The slots were jammed with players at all hours and the craps games were hot! Atlantic City's Boardwalk grew to include more than a dozen casinos with big-names like Harrah’s, Wynn, Bally’s and Tropicana opening properties.

Ownership Changes for Resorts

Instead of renovating and expanding their property, Resorts decided to expand by building a new casino named the Taj Mahal. However, financial difficulties forced a merger on the uncompleted project with financier Donald Trump’s company in 1987, which also purchased a controlling block of Resorts International stock.

Trump made an offer to purchase the remainder of Resorts in late 1987 which was countered by Merv Griffin (Griffin Gaming and Entertainment). Eventually, Trump took 100-percent control of the Taj Mahal while Griffin took over Resorts.

After Griffin upgraded the property to the tune of $90 million, Sol Kerzner and Sun International Hotels purchased the property in 1998 for $350 million. The property was quickly re-packaged as Resorts International Holdings,LLC – created by Colony Capital in 2000 after the property was sold for just  $144 million. The loss of value has become a continuing trend in Atlantic City casino values.

The following year Resorts International Holdings purchased the Las Vegas Hilton for $280 million. In 2005 it acquired four additional properties from Caesars and Harrah’s for $1.25 billion including Bally’s Tunica, Resorts Casino Tunica, Ameristar Casino East Chicago and Atlantic City Hilton.

Resorts International Today

When Colony Capital defaulted on their loans in 2009, former Tropicana Casino and Resort President Dennis Gomes and New York businessman Morris Bailey take over the property after arranging a $35 million purchase price just days before the resort would be shut down in December of 2010.

Resorts International is still in operation as a Mohegan Sun property, offering nearly 1,000 well-priced hotel rooms and a dozen dining choices. The casino now has more than 2,500 slot machines and table games include the standard fair plus Pai Gow Tiles and Poker, Baccarat, Let-it-Ride, Three-Card-Poker and more.

Rooms are now a great value at Atlantic City properties and Resorts often has standard rooms for as low as $49 and suites for as low as $149. Comps can be earned by using a players club card and there are plenty of amenities to be found at the hotel. Parking is often $10 for valet, but comps for this can also be earned.