Paul "Skinny" D'Amato

Paulino "Paul" D'Amato (born December 1, 1908- died June 5, 1984) known as "Mr. Atlantic City" and "Skinny", was the owner of the 500 Club in Atlantic City, New Jersey from the 1930's until the club burned down in 1973.

Early life

D'Amato was born to Italian-American parents in 1908 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He was one of eight children. When one or both of their parents died, D'Amato opened a cigar store[1] at the age of 15 to help support the other seven children. The store was very successful.[2]


D'Amato's initial success in Atlantic City began to grow when he opened up a restaurant and gambling hall called "Luigi's". He put the famous 500 Club under his ownership. He began working for corrupt Atlantic County treasurer Enoch "Nucky" Johnson and his political organization. D'Amato was also an associate of Chicago Outfit boss Sam Giancana and New Orleans crime family boss Carlos Marcello.

Philadelphia crime family underboss Marco Reginelli, a leader in the Italian Philadelphia-South Jersey mob for years, allegedly sold the 500 Club to D’Amato. [3]

The 500 Club

The 500 Club was a front for an illegal gambling operation. To draw gamblers, he had such big name entertainers as Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis,Jr., Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis perform at the club.

Back in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. D'Amato's supper club and gambling den on South Missouri Avenue, where the doors opened at 5 p.m. and closed at 10 a.m., was the world’s most notorious fairground. The biggest names in politics, sports — and the mob — mingled, smoked, drank, gambled (long before it was legal) and cut deals in secret rooms filled with roulette wheels, craps tables, baccarat and high-stakes card games, all protected by a police department on Skinny’s unofficial payroll.

He also managed a club in Lake Tahoe for Frank Sinatra, for which he got troubles from the IRS and lost a lot of money when the casino commission linked Sam Giancana to the Lake Tahoe operation and revoked its license in 1963. Other than that and other minor run-ins with the law D'Amato never spent a day in prison.

Soon Atlantic City began to decline and the 500 club, once the most popular nightclub in the nation, was on its way out, too. In 1972, Skinny's wife, who had been in a severe health decline, suffering psychological problems for five years, had died. Six months later, The 500 Club burned to the ground.[1] In June 1973, The 500 Club burned to the ground.[1] Skinny, with scant insurance, lost about $2 million on the fire. He never recovered — financially, emotionally or spiritually. His son, Angelo, was convicted of two chilling murders. First he pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the murder case of a family friend who had been butchered and was jailed and then paroled in 33 months and was later sentenced to 25 years to life in 1983 for the murder and dismemberment of a 28-year-old escort.


D'Amato died on June 5, 1984 of a heart attack. At his funeral Frank Sinatra served as a pallbearer carrying the casket at the church and cemetery, he was considered by many to be Sinatra's best friend and Frank's son affectionately referred to D'Amato as "Uncle Paul".[4][1]

While other men involved in illegal activities were considered Gangsters, D’Amato lived his life with one foot in Hollywood and one foot in the underworld, he was considered cool, a confidante and friend to stars, gangsters, politicians and hitmen alike, and while others killed people with guns he killed them with kindness and generosity. He was 75 years old.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Lemongello, Steven. "South Jersey Neighbors: Paulajane D'Amato's story linked to historic 500 Club", Press of Atlantic, June 23, 2013. Retrieved on July 28, 2016. 
  2. 500 Club Historical Marker and Skinny D'Amato (September 2010).
  4. Laymon, Rob. "500 Club Was His Place Frank Jammed Atlantic City Nightspot", May 16, 1998. Retrieved on July 28, 2016. 

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