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Back to the Future

Back to the Future

My gaming memory is sharp. While I often can’t remember what happened during my last meeting, ask me about dealing a blackjack game in Atlantic City at Caesars Boardwalk Regency on June 30, 1981. I can recall most of the hands and the more memorable players.

Yes, I started out as a dealer, slogging away behind the tables, head down, hands active, taking and paying.

And now I’m publisher of what is arguably the most respected gaming trade magazine in the world. Whew, it’s been a long strange trip, that’s for sure. But I’m far from alone on this trip.

Gathering information for our cover story, I was struck by a story told by Steve Perskie, who many call the “father” of Atlantic City gaming, after our interview (all of which can be heard on our website as podcasts; simply go to and click on the GBB Podcast for all the interviews conducted in a special month-long retrospective for this issue). Now a New Jersey Superior Court judge, Perskie told me a story about recently being approached by a man following an unrelated court appearance who thanked him for helping to craft and pass the Casino Control Act. The man told Perskie that he and all his family have benefited from gaming in Atlantic City by jobs and other byproducts.

I could say the same thing. I moved to Atlantic City soon after the ’76 referendum looking for a better life. For me, it was chance to become a

professional musician playing the lounges and showrooms. Well, obviously, that never happened, but it did propel me into employment at Caesars, the Golden Nugget and for a short while at Showboat. Since that time, I’ve spent more than 20 years covering gaming as a journalist. My life has been completely changed and enriched by gaming, but I’m not the only one; not by a long shot.

Everyone reading this magazine has a life impacted by what happened in New Jersey more than 30 years ago. Everyone from the room attendants to the chairmen of the companies have lives that would not be the same if not for Atlantic City. Even if you never worked in Atlantic City, the gaming industry would not be what it is today if not for what happened on the Boardwalk 30 years ago this month.

Take Steve Wynn. He had the foresight to be one of the early entrants into Atlantic City. He made a boatload of money and his sale of the Golden Nugget to Bally’s in 1987 laid the groundwork for—and financed—the Mirage and everything he has accomplished since then.

Donald Trump may have been a successful New York developer prior to arriving in Atlantic City in 1984, but it was the visibility he achieved by running one of the city’s most successful casinos at the time and promoting some of the 20th century’s biggest boxing matches and entertainment events in Atlantic City that propelled him onto the front pages of the nation’s leading newspapers.

A slew of the world’s top gaming executives—from Terry Lanni to Bill Weidner and many more—began their professional careers in earnest at Caesars Atlantic City.

Those who criticize the gaming industry as only good for producing “entry-level” jobs need to take a walk with me and meet some of the fine people who took those entry-level jobs in the early days and made something of their lives.

I travel frequently in my role as publisher. And in every corner of the world, I find an Atlantic City veteran—Mark Brown in Macau; Keith Crosby in Mississippi; Don Marrandino and Audry Oswell in Las Vegas; Bob DeSalvio in Pennsylvania; Mitchell Etess in Connecticut; Jim Allen in Florida; Tony Celona in New York; James Maida, just about everywhere; and the list goes on and on.

The significance of the legalization of gaming in New Jersey and the subsequent squeaky-clean operation of the Atlantic City industry have had ramifications far beyond the Boardwalk. It clearly opened up gaming for the rest of the country. It showed that casinos could be regulated effectively even in a less-than-favorable environment. And it provided proof that gaming could have a positive and long-lasting impact on a community that truly needed help.

So while we celebrate the 30 years of gaming and what it has done for Atlantic City, I prefer to focus on what it has done for some great people who may or may not have gotten the chance to shine the same way they have by making the decision to enter the gaming industry in Atlantic City.

Roger Gros is publisher of Global Gaming Business, the industry's leading gaming trade publication, and all its related publications. Prior to joining Global Gaming Business, Gros was president of Inlet Communications, an independent consulting firm. He was vice president of Casino Journal Publishing Group from 1984-2000, and held virtually every editorial title during his tenure. Gros was editor of Casino Journal, the National Gaming Summary and the Atlantic City Insider, and was the founding editor of Casino Player magazine. He was a co-founder of the American Gaming Summit and the Southern Gaming Summit conferences and trade shows. He is the author of the best-selling book, How to Win at Casino Gambling (Carlton Books, 1995), now in its fourth edition. Gros was named "Businessman of the Year" for 1998 by the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce, and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Gaming Association in 2012.

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