It becomes a big deal when a legendary casino shuts down and in just a few days, another will fold up in Atlantic City. It got me thinking back to the night in 2006, when I was there for the final roll of their old Sands casino. It’s kind of a surreal moment to be there when security pushes everyone out the door.
The hotel tower of the Sands Atlantic City
On that night, I had my old cell phone, and did my best to document the final moments of the casino. I caught on camera everything from the final blackjack bets to the employees saying good bye. I uploaded these to the web years ago, but decided it was time to take another look back at that historic moment caught in time.
The Atlantic City Sands casino opened on August 31, 1980 as the Brighten Hotel & Casino at the corner of Indiana Avenue and Brighten Park. Shortly after opening, it was bought along with the Las Vegas Sands and was officially renamed the Sands Casino Hotel Atlantic City to cash in on the famous “Rat Pack” name.
The resort featured 532 rooms in a 21 story hotel tower. The casino was 2 levels, with a 3rd floor restaurant area. After opening and become a sister to the Las Vegas property, it attracted big name entertainers including Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Cher, Whitney Houston, and more.
Inside the people mover that connected the Atlantic City Boardwalk, Sands Casino, and Claridge Casino.
While the resort was set back from the famous Boardwalk, a block long people mover was constructed featuring three Dunlop moving belts to take people directly inside either the Sands or neighboring Claridge Casino. The belt was kind of springy and you could actually bounce up and down a bit on it.
The flashy exterior of the Sands Atlantic City at night.
The Sands was quickly surpassed by the newer resorts that opened in town and went bankrupt in 1998. The property block was purchased by Pinnacle Entertainment, with their own plans to demolish the resort, and create their own $1.5 billion mega-resort known as Pinnacle Atlantic City. They erected billboards all around town advertising their coming and gave Sands employees 60 days lay off notice in September.
My friends Simon, Chris, and I decided to be there for the Sands final night and with my old fashioned camera phone in tow. We arrived around 10pm and the place certainly wasn’t a ghost town. In fact, it was quite packed. In the madness, I tried to snap as many phone shots as possible and here’s what I captured that night. I apologize in advance for some of the blurry photos.
From the people-mover, the O in casino had lost part of its covering. Nobody cares; this will be the last time this sign is lit.
To access the Sands, you had to take a sharp right after the second long belt on the people mover. You would then descend down a high flyover ramp, decorated in white and blue K-Mart rope lights. The next day, this flyover was sealed with a temporary wood partition. Only a few weeks later, the entire people mover to the neighboring Claridge was closed.
After exiting the people mover flyover, you would descend down an escalator to the main floor of the casino. There was a large atrium where a three story escalator would take hungry gamblers to the dining level. By the time we were there that night; only a small deli was still open.
It’s only 10pm, but this part of the casino floor was nearly dead… that will change as we delve further in.
Just steps from the door – this place is happening. Gamblers are trying to make the most of every last second the Sands is open!
The band plays on at Swingers, a bar/nightclub that was located in the center of the casino floor. Only 6 hours later, this place would be dead forever!
These signs were posted all around the properly informing players of the Sands closure. These signs would be up for months after the doors were locked.
We took a quick walk outside to check out the impressive front facade of the building. This was the final night for these signs and logo to be lit. Within 7 months, all of these signs went up for auction, and what was left was bulldozed 9 months later.
We went back inside to play the slots. Check this old machine out! It’s a unique nickel slot that offers a gold watch as a prize! Hit the right combination on the screen, push the button, and it’s yours. Two of the watches were already gone at this point. Too bad, they don’t have slots like these anymore!
We decided to explore the property a bit and came across this little used walkway to their hidden kids’ arcade. It looks like they didn’t want kids anywhere near the casino floor!
Here is the last open place to get a bite to eat… a late night deli. The Sands used to have a really neat themed buffet, where you sat on chairs that were designed to resemble the rolling chairs on the Boardwalk and the whole room was boardwalk/ocean themed. I ate there once; it wasn’t bad from what I remember.
Nobody was around in the poker room on the last night!
We took a final ride from the 3rd floor dining area down the long escalators back o the casino floor.
We took a stroll up the Boardwalk to the Irish Pub and returned at about 4:30am.
We again circled the casino to find that many of the machines had already been taken offline, such as this machine at 4:41am. There was quite a buzz floating around the floor as the casino had paid off many of their progressive jackpots earlier in the evening. There were stories of quite a few gamblers who hit it big!
By 5:11am, lines were forming at the casino cages as many of the tables began to close.
By 5:20am, one by one the tables were closing. Most of the staff began saying goodbye and swapping stories with one another.
By 5:21am, only two table games were available for play. $25 baccarat and $250 blackjack! The tables that were open now had rows of spectators.
…and at 5:22am, here’s one of the last blackjack tables that was open.
At 5:27am, I sat down at a still working Hollywood Squares slot machine. At this point, security was walking around telling players to cash out.
…and at 5:35am – a big win! My $20 turned into $186.50! Thanks Sands! A security guard stood next to me to finish my bonus round, then asked for a third and final time to leave the machine. Seconds after I got up, an attendant disables the machine.
…at 5:37am one of the last blackjack tables still going strong. At one point in the last years, the Sands had removed all of their table games. Some players said that was the final nail in their coffin. They brought them back not too long before closing.
One of the very last slot machines that was still online. You can tell by the red lights on top, which machines are offline.
At 5:43am, here’s that Hollywood Squares machine I was playing… now locked off!
Another view of that great win!
Here’s a bank of disabled Price is Right nickel slot machines. Funny, how the sign says TEMPORARILY OUT OF SERVICE.
Someone should take a Sharpie and change the sign to PERMANENTLY OUT OF SERVICE. These machines were probably shipped to another casino. I doubt they’re still in service in 2014!
…and at 5:46am here it is – the very last deal at the very last blackjack table. An announcement is made over the intercom – the Sands Casino is now officially closed. The woman won the last hand with a 20!
The staff says goodbye as security begins to usher patrons out of the building. A series of rope barricades had been put up at the edges of the casino floor. Once you crossed the line – you couldn’t get back in! Local news crews were waiting outside.
More of the staff taking pictures, hugging, and saying goodbye. There were still guests in the hotel rooms and they had to leave the building by 9am.
It’s now 5:54am, a look at one of the many security barriers in place.
Security ushering everyone out.
…and past the security barricade to the outside. The casino is nearly empty and closed. It’s 5:56am.
A cameraman from CBS 3 in Philadelphia takes some b-roll shots.
Another of the many signs announcing the casino’s closure.
A reporter from CBS 3 Philadelphia doing interviews.
It was $10 admission to get into the Sands Casino liquidation sale in 2007.
7 months later, after the casino was officially closed, the entire property, and everything inside went up for sale at an auction. I was able to check that out as well. It was neat to walk through every nook and cranny of the place. People were buying up everything. from old TV’s, to copper pipes, to hot tub parts, everything (except slots and table games, which were gone by this point) had a price tag on it. I originally went there, hoping to score a deal on an HDTV, but those were gone early in the auction. I did pick up a few small kitchen items: a serving dish, some wine glasses, and salad tongs! Every room in the building was open to explore. We even found a secret elevator that only went between the top three floors for high rollers to access their exclusive lounge.
Pinnacle made $31 million from the sale, including finding an additional $17,193.14 in found cash when the original slot machines were removed.
The entire property was imploded in a big Las Vegas style spectacle on October 18, 2007. Numerous viewing parties lined the Boardwalk for the festivities.
After being the smallest Atlantic City casino when it closed, Pinnacle had big plans to open their mega-resort by 2012 at the latest. Those plans never happened. Shortly after the building was imploded, the housing bubble burst, and Pinnacle was no longer interested in opening in the AC market. The site has sat vacant, except for an art installation, ever since. In March 2013, Pinnacle sold the land to developer Boardwalk Piers who has plans to build another casino or a family friendly complex.
The Dizzy Dolphin video poker bar inside The Atlantic Club.
It was a fun time at the Sands that last night and now sadly, another Atlantic City casino is closing their doors. The Atlantic Club Casino, at the very southern end of the Boardwalk, will shut down on January 13th. The casino was originally built at the Golden Nugget and helped casino mogul Steve Wynn fund his Las Vegas empire. The Atlantic Club is currently the smallest of the city’s casinos.
The Atlantic Club will be the third Atlantic City casino to ever close, after the original Playboy Casino/Trump World’s Fair site and the Sands. The only portion of the original Sands that still remains is the adjacent Madison House Hotel that was once used as an overflow hotel tower and a parking garage.
What: Sands Casino Hotel Atlantic City
Operating Dates: 1980-2006
JERSEY JOE RECOMMENDS:
Pinnacle made a mistake closing the Sands Atlantic City. While they had big plans for their mega-resort, even the city’s newest resort Revel, is having trouble making a buck.
The Sands could have stayed on as a local’s casino and certainly had enough space to expand or re-brand. Pinnacle should have waited until they had all the proper funding before imploding the place. They could have at least flipped the property over to someone else.
It’s only a matter of time, until Atlantic City loses another of their smaller casinos and only time will tell what will happen to the Atlantic Club property after the doors are sealed in a few days.
Image credits – iirra, Laura Gomez, Mori Claudia, Cavalier92