New Jersey's Casino Legends: Iconic Figures and Stories

Today, Atlantic City, New Jersey, remains a gambling force and a first-class destination for people to vacation and gamble. And while nine land-based casinos stand tall along the Beach Boardwalk, also with the surging popularity of online casinos, New Jersey has a sordid history of individuals, some famous and others infamous. This article breaks down the big and bold legends that helped shape the modern-day New Jersey Casino landscape.

Governor Brendan Byrne

While the 47th Governor of the Garden State left under unfavorable circumstances, he still plays a historical role as the Governor that helped to legalize gambling in New Jersey. Through Byrne's leadership, the first casino opened in 1978. Despite this amazing accomplishment, Byrne failed to secure his re-election bid, perhaps due to going back on a campaign promise not to levy a state income tax.

James M. Crosby

The late Crosby has the distinction of owning the Resorts Hotel, the first land-based Casino to open in New Jersey and outside Nevada. Crosby took over ownership from the previous owners and former name, Chalfonte-Haddon Hall. At the time, the Resorts Hotel opened with 750 rooms. The Resort Hotel has undergone several renovations and ownership changes over the years. Tragically, James Crosby died while in surgery in the mid-1980s.

Donald Trump

Before becoming the 45th President, Donald Trump was a casino barren and real estate mogul. At his height, Trump owned roughly five casino resorts in Atlantic City alone. Trump's entry into New Jersey Casinos began in the early 1980s when he began buying up property on the Beach Boardwalk. Donald Trump received his first New Jersey Casino license in 1982.

Shortly after agreeing to manage the Holiday Inn Casino Hotel construction in 1986, Trump bought out the remaining shares to seize ownership and ultimately renamed it Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino. However, one year prior, Trump purchased the Atlantic City Hilton Hotel, Casino, and Taj Mahal. These brands were later named the iconic Trump Marina and Trump Taj Mahal.

Trump Plaza, in particular, would host many championship boxing matches throughout the 1980s and 1990s, including many of Iron Mike Tyson's fights during his first championship run. And during 1988 and 1989, Trump Plaza would host Wrestlemania 4 and 5, two of the highest-grossing pay-per-views in WWE history.

But in the 1990s, pressed on, Trump's Casinos began to suffer financial woes. As the 1990s drew to a close, Trump World's Fair shuttered despite being open for only a few years. The Trump brand of Casino hotels would go through four separate bankruptcy filings before shutting down for good and being sold off.

Governor Chris Christie

In 2012, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie formally signed into law legalized sports betting in the Garden State. All the casinos can accept professional and collegiate sports. However, they can't take wagers from in-state teams, pro or college. And while initially opposed to online casinos, Governor Christie played a role in its expansion during his Governorship.