All but two casinos in Atlantic City planned to be back in business Friday, hours after getting the permission to reopen from Gov. Chris Christie and five days after the approaching Superstorm Sandy forced them to close their doors.
The Golden Nugget moved quickly to start recouping its losses, opening within two hours of the governor's order. Nine others prepared to open later in the day as the struggling gambling industry scrambled to restart after a second forced shutdown in two years.
Christie issued his order at 10 a.m., also reopening roads to the seaside resort, which was subject to a mandatory evacuation.
The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, the Tropicana Casino and Resort and the two Trump casinos planned to open at 4 p.m. Revel casino planned to open at noon Saturday and the Atlantic Club on Monday.
Among the first customers at Golden Nugget was 63-year-old Joyce Dean, who lives in Atlantic City. "I was cooped up with my sister," said Dean, a retiree who said she visits the Golden Nugget daily.
Golden Nugget general manager Tom Pohlman said he understands that some gamblers are more focused on recovery than diversions. But he said reopening will help employees.
"We employ a large majority of the people that live in Atlantic City and surrounding barrier islands," he said. "Unfortunately, our people don't get paid if they don't work."
Tropicana President Tony Rodio, who also heads the Casino Association of New Jersey, said the casinos need to open to get the city's economy going again. But officials realize it could take months for the industry to bounce back, because so many of its customers in the mid-Atlantic have been affected by the storm, he said.
Getting workers in place at the businesses was expected to be a challenge. The city had been shut down since Sunday. And with the reopening, traffic congestion was expected to be a problem.
The casinos were closed Sunday as Sandy bore down on New Jersey's coast. It was only the fourth time in New Jersey's 34-year history of legal casino gambling that the industry was shut down.
The storm made landfall with hurricane-force winds just a few miles from Atlantic City on Monday.
The city was flooded and an old section of its famous boardwalk — the nation's first — was wrecked in the storm, though other parts of New Jersey's coast were hit even harder.
Last year, casinos were closed when Tropical Storm Irene hit the coast. That three-day shutdown, which came on a busy summer weekend, cost the city $45 million in lost business.
The only other closures were for Hurricane Gloria in 1985 and a state government shutdown in 2006.
The casinos have been on a losing streak over the last six years during a sour economy and because of increased competition from neighboring states.
Mulvihill reported from Trenton.