Atlantic Club Closes in Atlantic City

Atlantic City’s Atlantic Club casino officially closed last week leaving the Atlantic City market with 11 casinos. The closing leaves more than 1,600 former employees looking for work. The property was opened by Steve Wynn in 1981 as the Golden Nugget (l.).

There was no ceremony—just a brief announcement over the public address system—as the Atlantic Club casino in Atlantic City closed its doors for good.

Most of the casino’s bars and restaurants had already been closed and just a small number of loyal gamblers were on scene when the announcement came at midnight January 13, according to the Press of Atlantic City. Longtime employees—more than 1,600 Atlantic Club employees have lost their jobs—hugged when the casino closed.

State regulators said the casino’s remaining chips and money would be secured in about six hours after the closing and its gaming machines shutdown.

The Press reported that the final weekend for the Atlantic Club had been busy, with a wedding reception held on the property and many seeking to say goodbye to the casino and employees.

Still, despite recent success for the casino, the Atlantic Club was sold last month in bankruptcy auction for $23.4 million to Tropicana Entertainment Inc. and Caesars Entertainment. It’s the lowest price ever paid for an Atlantic City casino. The two companies closed the casino with the property and land going to Caesars and the gambling equipment and Atlantic Club’s database going to Tropicana.

The day after the closing, the city’s largest casino workers union, UNITE-HERE Local 54, held an informational seminar to help the former casino’s employees deal with unemployment claims and other aid. Several hundred workers attended.

Several of the city’s remaining casinos are honoring Atlantic Club’s reward points in an attempt to attract the casino’s customers, including Tropicana, which acquired the casino’s player database in the sale.

Tropicana has also announced that it has hired three of the Atlantic Club’s former player development executives. A fourth player development executive was hired by the Golden Nugget casino hotel, that casino announced.

The Atlantic Club is the third Atlantic City casino to close in the city’s history, but unlike other projects, which were closed to build larger projects that did not materialize, the Atlantic Club’s closing illustrates the city’s shrinking market share. Many analysts wonder is more city casinos will close in the face of ever-growing casino competition in the Northeast.

“It’s no secret that Atlantic City has been declining since 2006. This was inevitable, and it’s sad,” Tropicana President and CEO Tony Rodio told the Press. “It’s just the harsh reality of the circumstances of the marketplace that we’re currently in. Will more casinos close? I certainly will say it’s possible.”

Along with the loss of jobs, the Atlantic City market loses 800 hotel rooms. Caesars has not announced what its plans are for the property.

While some analysts say Atlantic City needs to downsize in a saturated market, other analysts pointed out that the entire casino market in Mid-Atlantic States around New Jersey is being built out and few new casinos are planned.

Pennsylvania plans to award a second casino license for Philadelphia this spring, but that casino is expected to take more customers from Pennsylvania and Delaware casinos than from Atlantic City. Two new casinos have been approved in Maryland, but again, those openings are not expected to hurt Atlantic City at this point.

Still, many expect another Atlantic City casino—the struggling Trump Plaza is the most likely suspect—to close before the Atlantic City market stabilizes.

Atlantic City casinos have also been systematically reducing the numbers of slots on their casino floors recently, replacing many slot areas with non-gaming amenities such as restaurants and bars.  Nearly 11,000 slot machines have been removed since 2006—the last year Atlantic City saw rising casino revenues.

Atlantic Club had 1,641 slots.

The Atlantic Club opened in December 1980 as the Golden Nugget, owned at the time by casino magnate Steve Wynn. Initially, it was one of Atlantic City’s top earning casinos, but as the Atlantic City market evolved 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.