About 6,000 Lions, 43 senior citizens from Drexel Hill, Pa., 300 reporters and a handful of strays from an Eastern Star convention down the broadwalk milled through Resorts International Hotel Casino yesterday on what was meant to be the last day this is a hotel without a casino.
As New Jersey's Casino Control Commission met in Trenton to give its final blessing for gambling to begin here this morning, most of the lobby crowd expressed disappointment that they could not already be yanking slot machine handles or sliding chips onto green felt.
New Jersey officials have raised the possibility that so many people might try to get across the three causeways into this island city over the Memorial Day weekend that they will have to turn cars away, effectively declaring Atlantic City full.
On past Memorial Day weekends, 250,000 people have visited Atlantic City when the attractions were only the beach, the sun and amusement arcades. Estimates for this weekend have run as high as half a million.
But meanwhile, the corps or reporters - larger even than that which attended the recent Son of Sam court sessions - consoled itself by photographing reporters looking at the gaming tables, watching a rehearsal of the Steve Lawerence-Eydie Gorme show that opens the hotel's "Superstar Theater" and asking over and over when gambling would begin.
Rumours thatit would be last night, today or even as late as tomorrowcould be heard as the casino commission wrangled into the early evening over weather Resorts had met all the requirements of the state's gambling laws.
For some of the others at the hotel there was little conxolation. The 43 members of the St. Andrews Senior Citizen Club of Derxel Hill came for the day hoping to play slot machines. "Well we had a nice lunch." said Marie Cree, as she sat in the lobby waiting for the bus ride home.
Two elderly women from Atlantic City walked over under the impression that they could play the slots.
One remarked that she was all for gambling in Atlantic City because her family will come to visit her often now that they can "kill two birds with one stone."
Mike McBride and Dick Dofferemyre said they were busy with the meeting of District of Columbia. Maryland and Delaware Lions McBride of Burtons ville Md. is running for district office at the convention. He was shaking a lot of hands.
In Trenton Resorts won a battle when the Casino Control Commission gave it permission at peak hours to have a $5 minimum at all but 10 percent of the gambling tables and a $2 minimum bet at the across-the - broad $5 minimum.
As anticipation rose people stared at the faces of slot machines for considerably longer than most people spend before any painting in any museum but anticipation wasn't all that was rising.
Parking fees hotel rates and other services go up today in many places. One motel said it could guarantee a room would cost. A parking attendant said he would take a car for $2 yesterday but that it would be more today.
The Resorts Hotel gift shop is full of the souvenirs of the Atlantic City of tomorrow-Atlantic City's traditional salt water taffy now available in boxes that look like huge dice, minislot-machines and minicraptables.