9 Ways Donald Trump Might Have Ruined Atlantic City
Atlantic City still looms large in Americans’ imaginations. Las Vegas, New York City, Orlando, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlantic City — a few American cities have become iconic as vacation destinations, all for their own unique reasons. Most people know Atlantic City for its casinos, the nation’s first outside of Nevada. But many Americans don’t know that some of the people who live and work in Atlantic City — now the home of many shuttered and struggling casinos — blame Donald Trump for ruining their hometown.
Below, get all the details on the way that Donald Trump at least contributed to the decline of Atlantic City, if not precipitated its troubles himself.
9. Donald Trump orchestrated a ‘casino bubble’ in Atlantic City
In his career-long pursuit of wealth, Donald Trump has gotten involved in a huge range of businesses over the years. And Vox reports that across industries, “Trump has mastered essentially a single skill — structuring deals to be financially beneficial to him personally regardless of whether the underlying business is successful.”
He stuck with that strategy in Atlantic City, where The Washington Post blames him for the “orchestration of a casino-industry bubble,” which he accomplished by “flouting local regulation, building the Taj with $700 million in junk bonds at 14% interest, defaults, [and] bankruptcies.” As you might guess, that didn’t turn out so well for the business or for Atlantic City.
Next: Donald Trump made money even when his casinos didn’t.
8. Trump did well even when his casinos did poorly
Donald Trump focused on personally profiting from his casino empire rather than building it into a successful business. And for that reason, The New York Times reports that Donald Trump “was failing in Atlantic City long before Atlantic City itself was failing.” The publication reports that even as Trump’s companies did poorly, he personally profited.
“He put up little of his own money, shifted personal debts to the casinos and collected millions of dollars in salary, bonuses and other payments,” the paper notes. “The burden of his failures fell on investors and others who had bet on his business acumen.” Vox points out that Trump also extracted management fees from companies he was involved with, which profited him immensely even as those companies suffered. In fact, his casino company never turned a profit.
Next: He was supposed to look out for these middle-class Americans. But he didn’t.
7. He should have looked out for middle-class shareholders, but didn’t
If Donald Trump had really kept the interests of the other people involved in his companies at heart, his casino empire might not have had such a detrimental effect on Atlantic City. But as Vox reports, Trump instead took the helm of the publicly-traded Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts and “ran the company into the ground.”
The publication explains, “Mom-and-pop investors who had the misfortune to put their confidence in Trump lost nearly everything.” All the while, Trump took home millions of dollars in salary and bonuses, offloaded his personal debt to the company, and had the company purchase everything from bottled water to plane rides from his own private companies.
Next: He didn’t pay these people.
6. Donald Trump didn’t pay his contractors, many of whom were small local businesses
Another way Donald Trump profited at the expense of middle-class Americans? Deciding not to pay the workers who helped him build the Taj Mahal casino, one of his most expensive scandals ever.. The Washington Post reports that only four months after the opening of the Trump Taj Mahal, the New Jersey Casino Control Commission reported that 253 Atlantic City-area subcontractors hadn’t been paid either in full or on time for the project.
Trump owed $69.5 million, mostly to small family businesses. When Trump’s company declared bankruptcy, many small companies went out of business. So workers across the Atlantic City area found themselves out of work, even before the casinos went under.
Next: He should have known this from the beginning.
5. His casinos had little chance of success in the first place
The Times also points out an important fact about Donald Trump’s influence on Atlantic City: that the failure of his casinos was inevitable because of the way he built the business. Trump “assembled his casino empire by borrowing money at such high interest rates — after telling regulators he would not — that the businesses had almost no chance to succeed.”
Plus, he didn’t try to offer high-quality amenities or first-class service that could attract more tourists to Atlantic City. According to Trump’s longtime investment bankers at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, “The Trump name does not connote high-quality amenities and first-class service in the casino industry.” Rather, the Trump name connotes “the failure to pay one’s debts, a company that has lost money every year, and properties in need of significant deferred maintenance and lagging behind their competitors.”
Next: Trump’s casinos hurt workers in Atlantic City.
4. Trump left workers without jobs (or recourse)
The Post reported upon the shuttering of Trump’s Taj Mahal that he wasn’t leaving the city in good shape. “The unemployment rate of the city is already 9.2%, nearly twice the national average, and Atlantic County, N.J., is the nation’s mortgage foreclosure capital, meaning that many workers whose homes are underwater won’t be able to afford to move somewhere else to seek new jobs,” the Post noted in 2016.
The unemployment rate in Atlantic City has stayed high, even long after Donald Trump departed, and property values have plummeted. Atlantic City lost about 11,000 jobs — jobs that are only beginning to come back as new casinos try to open and revitalize the area.
Next: This problem persists even after Trump’s departure.
3. Atlantic City remains neglected as the city government follows in Trump’s footsteps
The New Yorker reports that today, Atlantic City remains neglected. That neglect “has been attributed to a bloated municipal payroll,” to “the suffocating effect of the casinos, which are boxed off from the city and are designed to keep patrons inside losing money rather than outside spending it,” and to the “the thorny old problem of race or the dreary question of the structure of municipal government statewide.”
Donald Trump isn’t to blame for all of those problems. But from his profiting off of unprofitable companies to his record of racist statements, he didn’t set a good example.
Next: This is one of the biggest factors in Trump’s influence on Atlantic City.
2. Donald Trump used the city for his own financial gain
The Post also reports that Trump’s defaults and bankruptcies in Atlantic City didn’t hurt him. “His losses in Atlantic City probably contributed to the $916 million he reportedly wrote off as a loss on his taxes in 1995, which could have offset millions of dollars in income in future years,” the publication explained.
One investor told The New York Times that Trump lent the gilt sheen of the Trump name to companies funded by investors. But he ultimately “drove these companies into bankruptcy by his mismanagement, the debt and his pillaging” of assets.
Next: Donald Trump said this about the city.
1. Trump even dismissed Atlantic City as a ‘disaster’
Perhaps the worst piece of evidence that Donald Trump really did ruin Atlantic City? His comments dismissing the region as a disaster. As a presidential hopeful on the campaign trail, Donald Trump occasionally fielded questions about his casinos’ performance. The Times reports that Trump repeatedly said that he left Atlantic City at the right time.
“Atlantic City is a disaster, and I did great in Atlantic City,” he said during one debate. “I knew when to get out. My timing was great. And I got a lot of credit for it.” But the Times reports that instead of leaving around 2006 — the year that revenues peaked in Atlantic City — Trump actually tried to hang on to his casino empire as late as 2009.
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