Atlantic City Archives: When Donald Trump Came To Town

Posted By Steve Ruddock on July 21, 2015

Donald Trump has worn many hats over the years, and one of the hats the current presidential candidate used to wear was casino owner.

Long before he was known for his vibrant hair, or for his “you’re fired” catchphrase, or for making controversial statements, Trump was known to most of the populace for his Atlantic City casinos.

Some of Trump’s casinos you’ve likely visited or at least heard of, others you’ve probably never heard of, and still others that never came to fruition you might chuckle at.

Here is a look back at Donald Trump’s legacy in the New Jersey casino world.

Donald Trump hits AC

By the time Donald Trump rolled into town in the early 1980’s, Atlantic City’s casino industry was already in full swing as the state legalized casinos in 1976, with the first one, Resorts Casino, opening its doors in 1978.

The Donald started purchasing property in Atlantic City in the early 1980’s and was approved for a gaming license by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission in 1982.

Trump Plaza

Trump initially planned to open his own property on the boardwalk, but ended up developing a separate casino property on the boardwalk for Holiday Inn/Harrah’s. The casino opened in 1984 with the name Harrah’s at Trump Plaza.

Soon after opening, the casino dropped the Harrah’s part of the name, and Trump would later buy out Harrah’s in 1989.

Trump Plaza is best known for hosting some of the biggest sporting events in Atlantic City history, from Wrestlemanias to Mike Tyson heavyweight title fights. Trump Plaza’s ability to bring in headline events was a key cog in Atlantic City’s marketing success in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

But the good times wouldn’t last.

Trump Plaza has declined over the years, and in 2014 the casino closed for good. But by that time Trump’s only association with the casino was his name on the side of the building.

Trump lost control of the Trump brand in Atlantic during Trump Entertainment’s third bankruptcy filing in 2009 that left Trump with zero control and just a 5% stake in the casinos that bear his name.

Trump’s Castle and Trump Marina

Another Trump property that began its life under different ownership, and with different names, was the Trump Marina.

Trump Marina takes its name from the Marina District of Atlantic City it was built in.

The casino was originally designed by Hilton Hotels, but when the group was unable to secure a gaming license, they sold the unfinished project to Trump.

Trump renamed the casino Trump’s Castle and it opened in 1985. In 1997 it was renamed Trump Marina, a name it held until its sale to Landry’s in 2011, following one of Trump Entertainment’s bankruptcy filings.

The casino is still owned by Landry’s and is now known as Golden Nugget.

Trump Taj Mahal

The feather in Donald Trump’s Atlantic City cap is without doubt the Trump Taj Mahal, or simply The Taj.

Opened in 1990, The Taj was a billion-dollar casino project (not by design), and for a decade The Taj was the place to be in Atlantic City. However, that came with a severe price, as the high cost of the project led Trump Entertainment to file for its first of what would eventually be four bankruptcy protections.

The Trump Taj Mahal is the only Trump-themed casino that is still open, but just barely. The Taj nearly joined Trump Plaza, Revel, Atlantic Club, and Showboat as closed casinos in 2014, but Trump Entertainment’s latest bankruptcy led to a restructuring that bailed the property out for the time being.

The closure of Trump Plaza and the failings of Trump Taj Mahal caused Trump to file a lawsuit to have his name taken off the buildings in an effort to undo the 2009 bankruptcy ruling that allowed the casino’s current owners to use his name.

The lawsuit failed.

Trump’s World Fair

One of Trump’s forgotten projects was Trump’s World Fair, which opened in 1996 and closed in 1999. A true flash in the pan.

Trump’s World Fair started its life as the Playboy Club and later Atlantis Hotels. The property seemed cursed from the beginning, as the CCC refused to license Playboy Enterprises, which caused them to sell their share of the casino to their partner in 1984. The following year they filed for bankruptcy.

In 1989, Trump purchased the struggling property and rebranded it Trump Regency, a non-gaming hotel right on the boardwalk. In 1996, Trump reopened it as a full hotel casino named Trump’s World Fair.

A disaster from the start, Trump’s World Fair closed in 1999 and was torn down the following year.

Trump had plans to rebuild the property and make it even grander, but this rebirth never materialized.

Trump’s Yacht Casino

Go big or go home. That’s pretty much Trump’s mentality, and his 1996 plan to build a 430 foot yacht solely to dock it next to Trump Marina and turn it into a casino certainly fits in with the go big or go home motto.

Unsurprisingly, the yacht was never built.

Image Sean Pavone /

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Steve Ruddock

Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.

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