Trump Casino Atlantic City: History, Development, and Demolition

Arsenii Anderson
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Trump Casino Atlantic City Timeline and Closure

One of the best-known facts about Donald Trump is that he’s a businessman through and through. His “success” when establishing Donald Trump hotels in Atlantic City was especially a bragging point for him. Part of his presidential campaign had been that he’d bring the same business prowess he used in Atlantic City to outwit the Wall Street firms to the Oval Office.

Trump’s gambling empire in Atlantic City started with Trump Plaza, followed by Trump Marina and Taj Mahal (the latter consequently becoming Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, the land-based partner of some of the most popular real money NJ online casino websites). However, it all came to an explosive end in 2021 when the city demolished Trump Plaza, a definitive ending to an empire that, in reality, had declined years previously.

The story behind Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino will show the former President’s success in the Atlantic City gambling market and where the business started going off the rails. Join us as we look at the history, development, and demolition of the Trump casinos in Atlantic City and where they are today.

🎰 The Timeline of Trump Plaza Atlantic City

Of Trump’s three casino resorts in Atlantic City, Trump Plaza lasted the longest under its initial brand. Below, we look at the history of this building and what eventually led to its demolition in 2021.

1983 - Establishing the Casino Resort

While Trump started developing real estate and hotels in 1976, it was only in 1983 that he entered the Atlantic City market in New Jersey. He partnered with Holiday Inn to fund the Trump Plaza Atlantic City endeavor. While the partnership was filled with deceptions and challenges, Trump did manage to open the doors to the casino resort on the 15th of May, 1984, after spending $210 million, making it the city’s largest casino resort.

1988 - Tyson-Spinks Fight at the Casino Resort

The casino gained lots of attention, hosting significant events like the legendary Mike Tyson vs. Michael Spins boxing match. With Tyson knocking Spinks out in 91 seconds flat, the casino gained much attention, with celebrities like Madonna, Sean Penn, and Oprah in attendance.

1991 - First Bankruptcy Filing

Trump filed for bankruptcy in 1991, which led to the bank taking a 49% stake in the Plaza Hotel to give Trump better terms on his $550 million debt with the establishment. While he remained the CEO of the casino hotel, he wasn’t involved in the daily operations anymore. Trump in AC has a long history of bankruptcy, and this is where it all started.

1992 - Casino Resort Approves Expansion

After Trump opened Trump Taj Mahal, the Plaza started losing customers. However, this only inspired him to do renovations to make it relevant again. In 1992, the company approved construction efforts, adding 10,000 square feet of space to the establishment. This renovation was also after he filed for bankruptcy the previous year and hoped to earn more money by serving more customers.

1995 - Establishing Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts

The man of the hour established his public trading company, Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts, which bought Taj Mahal and the Castle under his ownership for $1.38 billion. Since then, the company has filed for bankruptcy several times, in 1991, 2004, 2009, and 2014.

2001 - Cameo in Ocean’s Eleven

Despite the start of the casino’s downfall already present, it still had a good reputation. The Trump casino resort had a cameo in the 2001 film Ocean’s Eleven as the casino where Bernie Mac’s character was a dealer when George Clooney and Brad Pitt came to recruit him for the heist.

2004 - Second Bankruptcy Filing

The umbrella company, Hotel and Casino Resorts, filed for bankruptcy in 2004 with a $1.8 billion debt. The filing resulted in a restructuring of the company, which led to Donald Trump having a reduced share of 28% in the company. It also resulted in a name change of the umbrella company.

2006 - Trump Casino Atlantic City Resort Undergoes Renovations

Another effort to revitalize the Plaza after Taj Mahal started becoming heavy competition was the renovation efforts in 2006. Only eight months after the company left the Bankruptcy Court protection, renovations began revamping the rooms and casino floor while adding The Liquid Bar with a Boardwalk-facing view. These renovations cost around $32 million.

2009 - Third Bankruptcy Filing

For the third time, the company filed for bankruptcy in 2009, this time being $500 million in debt. This time, the company’s restructuring ended up decreasing Trump’s share to 10% and his resignation from the Board of Directors.

2009 - Trump Drops Casino

In 2009, Trump saw the decline of the casinos and the oversaturated market. He officially cut ties with Plaza, the only casino still under his company’s management.

2014 - The Resort Closes for Good; Fourth and Final Bankruptcy Filing

In 2014, the casino’s revenue had fallen to almost half what it had been in 2006, resulting in the fourth and final bankruptcy filing. It forced the closure of the casino hotel and went into bankruptcy court’s possession, from which Icahn took control in 2016. In September 2014, the company announced that Trump Atlantic City was closing for good, primarily due to significant debt and an oversaturated casino market. It was the last of the four casinos that closed in 2014 due to heavy competition between existing and new casino brands.

2016 - Icahn Enterprises Takes Ownership

Icahn Enterprises, a former economic advisor and donor to Trump, bought the Plaza establishment in 2016. However, the company didn’t do anything with the building, allowing it to sit vacant for five years.

2021 - The Building is Publicly Demolished

The vacant building was starting to deteriorate, with chunks falling off and the mayor urging Icahn to demolish it as soon as possible. The mayor initially used the demolition of the Trump Hotel Atlantic City building in a bidding war to raise money for the charity the Boys And Girls Club of Atlantic City. The building was demolished on February 17, 2021.

He stated the highest bidder could press the button that brought the building down. However, Icahn Enterprises stopped it due to safety and liability issues and instead changed it to a fundraiser for a VIP view of the implosion.

💡 Facts and Highlights

  • Trump Marina was the second casino resort established by Trump in Atlantic City, NJ, in 1985;
  • Trump Taj Mahal was the last of the Donald Trump hotels in Atlantic City, established in 1990;
  • Taj Mahal was the main reason for the Plaza’s financial difficulties and slow decline;
  • In 2004, the umbrella company changed its name to Trump Entertainment Resorts;
  • Entertainment Resorts sold the Marina casino to Landry’s Restaurants in 2011 to pay off debt;
  • Entertainment Resorts sold the Taj Mahal casino to the Mereulo Group in 2013 to pay off debt;
  • Trump first tried to sell the Plaza to Icahn Enterprises for $20 million, an offer they rejected;
  • The union group Unite Here put a motion forward against Trump Entertainment Resorts, but the courts ruled in favor of Trump Entertainment Resorts;
  • Trump doesn’t own the majority share in Trump Entertainment Resorts anymore and is barely involved with the company these days.

🤔 What About Trump Taj Mahal?

You might be wondering what happened with Trump Taj Mahal, the casino that started the decline of the Plaza. A lot happened between Donald Trump and Atlantic City, with Taj Mahal taking center stage for most of it.

After Trump purchased the establishment, renovated, and re-opened it in 1990, he advertised it as the world’s eighth wonder. Michael Jackson was there for the opening, and people flocked to the newly opened casino. For a time, it seemed like that statement wasn’t too far off the mark.

However, the casino filed for bankruptcy within a year, which was the start of all the other bankruptcy filings over the years. The cherry on top of what happened between the Trump casinos in Atlantic City is that it was all predicted before the grand opening of Taj Mahal.

Marvin Roffman, a gaming industry financial analyst, had told Trump beforehand that one casino would cannibalize the other, a claim Trump disregarded at the time. He stated that the casino would need to generate a daily revenue of almost $1.3 million to break even, which isn’t feasible. And he would be turn our to be right.

This prediction was also followed by hundreds of contractors who stated they were never paid for the work they did in constructing the building. These events resulted in Trump selling his interest in the company in 2009, despite operating for nearly 20 years. It continued operating under the Trump Entertainment Resorts company until 2013, when they sold it to the Mereulo Group, headed by Carl Icahn.

After it was closed, Icahn sold it to the Hard Rock International Group, and in 2018, they reopened it under the new name and brand, Hard Rock Hotel and Casino AC, under which it still operates today. Today, the casino ranked second among the nine Atlantic City casinos in generated revenue in Q2 2023.

❓ FAQ

Is Trump Plaza closed for good?

Yes, this casino hotel closed for good in 2014. While it changed hands a few times between 2014 and 2021, it was demolished in February 2021, and the property still stands vacant to this day. There were plans and a $50,000 planning grant from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority to redevelop the property. Still, nothing ever came of it, and it’s now up for sale.

How many Trump casinos have closed in Atlantic City?

Three casinos with Donald Trump’s name opened in Atlantic City, and all three had closed by 2014. The Plaza, the Marina, and the Taj Mahal establishments carried the Trump brand but have since been rebranded, like the Marina to Golden Nugget and Taj Mahal to Hard Rock, or been demolished, like the Plaza building.

Did Trump own the Plaza Hotel in NJ?

Yes, he owned the Plaza Hotel until he sold his shares in 2009. The Plaza was the casino he held personal ownership over the longest, with the Marina and Taj Mahal being the first ones the parent company bought after he established it.

Why did the Trump casino close in AC?

Trump’s venture into casinos, for all that it was luxurious and sensationalized, was fraught with debt. The millions to billions of dollars in debt eventually resulted in the casinos closing for good.

What’s the reason behind the Trump bankruptcy in Atlantic City?

The main reason for the debt and eventual bankruptcy was that the casinos didn’t perform as well as they should have to break even. This bankruptcy is partially due to the exorbitant amount spent purchasing, building, and renovating the buildings. However, part of the reason the casinos didn’t perform as well was an over-saturated market, with extreme competition, making it difficult to reach the figures needed to sustain the casino.

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