One of the first politicians to support the legalization of gaming outside of Nevada died last month. Former New Jersey Governor Brendan Byrne backed South Jersey politicians in 1974 that wanted to bring gambling to Atlantic City to revive the down-on-its-luck resort.
The referendum in 1974 allowed any community in New Jersey to legalize casinos with a local option. That vote went against legal gambling, so the wording was changed to allow casinos in Atlantic City only in 1976. It passed by a 55-45 margin.
When Resorts International opened its doors on Memorial Day 1978, Byrne showed up to cut the ribbon, famously warning organized crime to “keep your filthy hands off Atlantic City.”