More than just bright lights

Atlantic City has long been regarded as “America’s Playground.” The resort town on Absecon Island, off the coast of New Jersey, earned its reputation from the decadence of the 1920s and 1930s when mobsters and

Atlantic City has long been regarded as “America’s Playground.” The resort town on Absecon Island, off the coast of New Jersey, earned its reputation from the decadence of the 1920s and 1930s when mobsters and movie stars traced the boardwalk and graced the halls of its luxury hotels.After World War II the mood of the country changed, and the condition of the once vibrant city deteriorated.When gambling was legalized in the late 1970s, Atlantic City began to emerge from the shadows of its West Coast sibling, Las Vegas. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, or so it goes, but in the years after gambling was legalized only day tourists and senior citizens seemed willing to trek the 90 miles to Atlantic City from Philadelphia.The new millennium brought a fresh marketing campaign and a multi-billion dollar redevelopment agenda to the area. With an influx of new casinos, restaurants and attractions, Atlantic City is fast becoming the city that is “Always Turned On.”July 5, 1854- The first train arrived in Atlantic City with its first official visitors after a two hour trip from Camden, N.J. Dr. Jonathan Pitney, a physician who lived on the island, worked with Philadelphia engineer Richard Osborne to construct the Camden-Atlantic City Railroad. Pitney is credited with naming and designing the layout of the city and naming its streets.June 26, 1870- The Atlantic City boardwalk, the first in the United States, opens. On this day the boardwalk is just over four miles long.June 16, 1880- Atlantic City was officially born and named for its neighboring ocean. As for its streets, those running parallel to the ocean would be named after great bodies of water, and streets east to west would be named after states.Sept. 7, 1921- Margaret Gorman, 16, was named the first Miss America, a tradition that Atlantic City hosted from its inception until this year when the pageant moved to Las Vegas.May, 1929- Al Capone and Lucky Luciano were among the crime lords who gathered in Atlantic City to chew on salt water taffy and negotiate how to handle gambling operations.Dubbed the “Gangsters Convention,” it is considered a formative moment in the development of organized crime.On his way back to Chicago after the convention, Al Capone was arrested in Philadelphia for carrying a concealed weapon and later served a prison sentence at Eastern State Penitentiary.Nov. 2, 1976- New Jersey votes to approve a gambling referendum, legalizing casinos exclusively in Atlantic City.May 26, 1978- Resorts International, now called Resorts Atlantic City, is the first casino to open its doors to gamblers. Donald Trump bought Resorts in the mid-1980s, but later sold the property to Merv Griffin, keeping the unfinished Taj Mahal for himself.April 2, 1990- The magnificence of the Trump Taj Mahal is finally revealed to the public. Boasting four and a half times more steel than the Eiffel Tower, $14 million worth of crystal chandeliers and $4 million spent in costumes and uniforms for 6,000 employees, the Taj Mahal was the crown-jewel of Donald Trump’s three casinos in Atlantic City.July, 1992- 24-hour gambling is approved. Previously, casinos closed for a couple of hours overnight to keep their licenses.August, 1994- Bally’s Grand (now the Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort) pays out the largest slot machine award in history to 54 year-old Frank Olive. The amount: $8.5 million.Sept. 21, 2000- Construction begins on the Borgata Hotel, Casino and Spa, Atlantic City’s first new casino since 1990. The Borgata opened on July 2, 2003. Last year the Borgata raked in $636.5 million in revenue.Oct. 21, 2000- Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.Nov. 23, 2004- The Tropicana opens a Havana-themed tower, making it the largest casino in Atlantic City. Its entertainment and retail area, The Quarter, continues to draw younger crowds to its phenomenal nightlife.Oct. 25, 2005- Rapper-mogul Jay-Z opened the 40/40 sports club, restaurant and bar along The Walk, a shopping, eating and entertainment district in Atlantic City.February 2006- There are a total of 12 operational casinos in Atlantic City and a host of nightclubs and restaurants.Brooke Honeyford can be reached at

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