Rolling the dice on Donald Trump in Atlantic City

Businessman candidate promised to make the gambling den of Atlantic City "great again", but then came the bankruptcies.

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    The front of the building carries no signage and on one side the name has been covered up.

    I think he could have done a little better to try to put some kind of a safety net to try to help some of the people that he was hurting so dearly with his cold-hearted business moves

    Michael Johnson, Atlantic City resident

    The glitz and glamour that once enticed people has long been replaced by dirt and grime.

    But if you look closely enough, there are clues to its gloried past. Shadows still make it possible to read the name - Trump Plaza.

    It was a famous landmark in New Jersey's Atlantic City Boardwalk, an important part of Donald Trump's business empire.

    Atlantic City enjoyed some success in the 1920s and 30s and was one of the few remaining places in the US where gambling was legal.

    So when Trump came calling, many in the city hoped the businessman's flair and knack for publicity would restore it to its former glory - perhaps even make the place "great again".

    In 1982, Trump appeared before the State Gaming Commission and told the panel that Atlantic City needed "some pizazz". Two hours later he had a casino licence.

    And some two years later, Trump Plaza opened and Sammy Davis Jr was the headline act.

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    The Trump Castle followed but it wasn't enough. The businessman wanted a third casino and, in 1990, Trump Taj Mahal opened.

    Some 75,000 people turned up for the ribbon cutting and the TV show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous described it as the "world's glitziest casino".

    But other states, seeing how legalised gambling could help to raise funds, were beginning to open up to casinos too, and people no longer needed to drive a few hours to New Jersey to have fun at the tables. A recession hit.

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    One year after the Taj opened, Trump's company filed for bankruptcy protection. That allowed the operation to restructure without closing down.

    It wasn't the only time Trump took the bankruptcy route. He did it again in 1992, and in 2004 and 2009.

    Trump claims he saw Atlantic City was going to tank and as a great businessman he "had the good sense" to get out and make a lot of money doing so.

    A couple of streets from the Trump Taj Mahal sits the Asbury United Methodist Church. Its red doors have become a local landmark.

    People know on a Saturday they'll get a good meal, a kind word and a sympathetic ear. It might also be the best meal they'll eat that week.

    Many of the hundreds that turn up used to work for Trump.

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    Keith Harris, who helps run the programme, says there are mixed feelings about Trump. "He was very good to his employees, there were bonuses available, jobs were plentiful, he was opening casinos but then as the market dropped the casinos closed. Donald Trump skated out. He got out leaving lots of people behind. But as a businessman, he thought this was what he had to do."

    When the Trump casinos closed, creditors got only pennies on the dollar. It hit many small contractors such as florists and plumbers and carpenters. People lost their jobs and some lost their business.

    "I think he could have done a little better to try to put some kind of a safety net to try to help some of the people that he was hurting so dearly with his cold-hearted business moves," says Michael Johnson, who was involved in the property market in Atlantic City.

    "He wrote The Art of the Deal and maybe as a business move it was the right thing, but maybe he doesn’t really care about people," Johnson said.

    There are those who believe Atlantic City was better when Trump was here and involved and those who believe he showed his business smarts by leaving when he did.

    He still owns a 10 percent stake in the Trump Taj Mahal, the only casino that still bears his name.

    His Atlantic City record will come under the spotlight again in the presidential campaign and Democrats will be asking if the American people want to gamble on such a record.

     Top US general defends Donald Trump - UpFront 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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