A year of decay and decline continues to eat away at Atlantic City’s famed boardwalk, as another of the city’s casinos shut down Tuesday.
Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino has closed up shop. In a rather remarkable illustration of Atlantic City’s downswing, this is the fourth casino to close in the city this year, costing thousands of people their jobs. Atlantic City began the year with 12 casinos, but a third of those have closed — and a fifth casino, Trump Taj Mahal, is expected to shut down in November.
When Trump Plaza — then known as Harrah’s at Trump Plaza — opened in May 1984, it became the 10th casino in Atlantic City. As the New York Times wrote at the time:
Analysts and rival casino executives agree the demand for gambling on the East Coast can accommodate at least the new casino and three more under construction, so long as their openings are not too close together.
”The growth potential is too large for the Trump opening to hurt the rest of us,” the executive vice president of Resorts International, H. Steven Norton, said. ”More casinos and more entertainment will only make Atlantic City a more attractive destination.”
Three decades later, after considerable churn in Atlantic City, several casinos opening and closing, billions of dollars gambled and lost, it is clear that Atlantic City’s gambling industry is on the decline. Casino revenue has been cut in half since 2006. (That is not a problem across the industry, as Nevada’s gaming revenue has been flat or even increased since 2010.)
Instead, Atlantic City is simply no longer a gambling mecca for people along the Northeast Corridor and beyond. Other states have opened casinos, with Maryland and Pennsylvania, among others, offering gaming options that may entice travelers who would have otherwise made their way to Atlantic City’s boardwalk.
Trump Plaza was not exactly Revel, a gleaming jewel billed as a “turning point for Atlantic City” before closing down two years later. It was a 30-year-old workhorse of a casino that was nearly sold last year to a company in California, before investor Carl Icahn said he would not allow the sale to proceed because he felt the price ($20 million) was too low.
The casino’s problems were evident this year. It was one of six casinos that posted a loss in the first six months of 2014, with the second-biggest loss in that window ($7.4 million) of any casino (trailing Revel, which lost $46 million). That was up considerably from the $1.2 million it lost during the first six months of 2013.
Donald Trump, whose name adorns the newly closed casino, filed a lawsuit this year seeking to have his name removed from it. Trump does not run Trump Entertainment Resorts, but he does retain a 10 percent stake in the company. Among other things, this lawsuit expressed a concern that the casino closures could “further harm the Trump name and brand.” The lawsuit offered a timely bookend to what happened not long after Trump Plaza opened, when an argument over the facility’s name also spilled into court.
(On Tuesday morning, the shuttered casino’s namesake also chimed in on Twitter, making sure people know he “left Atlantic City Years ago” and musing about jumping back in “to save” the closed Trump Plaza and its soon-to-be-shuttered cousin, Trump Taj Mahal.)
Trump Plaza’s closure comes not long after Revel Casino Hotel and Showboat ceased operations. These closings may also have odd, unintended side effects that can be felt far from the boardwalk. Revel, the $2.4-billion resort-casino destination that opened just two years ago, shut down this month. Six days later, TMZ released footage captured inside one of Revel’s elevators earlier this year showing Ray Rice, the Baltimore Ravens running back, punching his now-wife Janay in the face. This footage caused an uproar, leading to Rice’s suspension and a big outcry over how the NFL treats cases of domestic violence.
We cannot say for sure whether the closure of the casino had anything to do with TMZ’s ability to obtain the elevator footage. (TMZ did not respond to a request for comment after the video was released.) After all, the site also released security footage showing Rice dragging her out of the elevator in February, back when the incident occurred and when Revel was still open. But the timing was still curious, raising the question of whether the latest video came from someone who no longer had to weigh the financial benefits of releasing the video (TMZ openly pays for footage) against keeping their job.
The next casino expected to close, Trump Taj Mahal, is likely to shutter by Nov. 13. That venue lost $1.3 million during the first six months of this year, a significant drop from the $12.6 million in profit it made during the same period last year. Trump Entertainment Resorts, which emerged from its last bankruptcy in 2010, has also announced that it has filed for bankruptcy protection in Delaware. By mid-November, barring something unexpected, the company will have no more casinos to operate.