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[00:00:00]

Los Amigos, Mexican restaurant and bar is a sliver of a place tucked between the monolithic gambling halls of Caesars and Bally's in Atlantic City, and its tacos are a talisman of sorts.

[00:00:12]

Yeah, I think so. Yeah. A few people, like I had a couple of gamblers that used to eat here before they went. That's Pat Schmidly. She's owned Los Amigos for 40 years. And in that time she said more than a few superstitious high rollers swing through her spot for some Baja fish tacos or carnitas before hitting the tables.

[00:00:31]

Their host would bring them in instead. Every time he eats here, he's lucky.

[00:00:36]

A host is someone employed by a casino to take care of the big gamblers who are also called Wale's. And this one whale couldn't get enough of Los Amigos.

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So the fella told me he goes, Yeah, I win when I come here. So I was like, back least, you know, it's awesome. Really. Yeah, he felt lucky. So that was a big plus. I say, oh, keep winning, please.

[00:00:56]

This whale, his gambling spot of choice was Trump Taj Mahal, the now defunct casino previously owned by the 44th president of the United States, Donald Trump. If high rollers are Wale's than the Taj Mahal was the most opulent, over-the-top whale sanctuary in the world when it opened in 1990, it was the largest, most expensive casino ever built.

[00:01:19]

With its minarets and domes and Life-Size elephant statues, the Taj cost nearly a billion dollars and most of the gaming floor the size of three football fields, the utterly fantastic Trump Taj Mahal casino resort where every day's a holiday and every night is New Year's Eve.

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So take a magic ride to the eighth wonder of the world, the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort in Atlantic City.

[00:01:46]

Trump called his new casino the eighth wonder of the World Wonder with the Pyramid of Giza. Thought about that. Pop superstar Michael Jackson and supermodel Elle MacPherson were on hand for the grand opening. So was lifestyles of the rich and famous Robin Leach. Because, you know, why not?

[00:02:02]

If the Taj Mahal casino is the wonder of the world on that day, it think the government ranked nine seventy five thousand pounds, nearly swept away supermodel Elle MacPherson. But they didn't stop the casino tycoon topping two million dollars for the day away from the throne. I asked Donald if bringing in Michael was his ultimate trump card to have Michael at the Taj Mahal.

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He's my friend. He's a tremendous talent and it's really my honor. It's a big day for me.

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Shout out to Robin Leach for using trump card in an absolutely unironic way. In addition to its other superlatives, the Taj was the most lucrative casino in the world, hauling in hundreds of thousands of dollars a day, at least for a while. But then, just a year after it opened, Atlantic City's most glittery diamond and the crown jewel in Trump's casino empire went bankrupt. A year after that, Trump's two other New Jersey casinos also filed for bankruptcy by the time the final dice were thrown at the Taj in 2016.

[00:03:01]

Trump's casino operation had gone bankrupt six times.

[00:03:06]

Trump Entertainment Resorts, the holding company that owned Trump's casinos, was the only public company Trump ever ran. And every year that Trump was in charge lost money. In spite of that, its CEO, Donald Trump, pulled down seven figure bonuses year after year. The story of Trump Entertainment Resorts is a story with many themes. It's about the basics of supply and demand, the relationship between a slick developer and a desperate city, and the consequences of gambling with other people's money and livelihoods and losing.

[00:03:38]

I'm Lauren Ober and from American Public Media and the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. This is a spectacular failures, the show that goes all in on failure, even though Lady Luck isn't always on our side.

[00:03:56]

If you've ever been to an American beach, you have probably felt the presence of Atlantic City in the form of saltwater taffy, that sticky coastal confection that can be found in every tchotchke shop selling seashell jewelry and T-shirts that read Life is better in flip flops. Saltwater taffy was invented in Atlantic City in the late 1980s. Legend has it that a storm dumped ocean water on an early batch of the candy, hence its name. But more likely, the Troedsson bender was just really good at marketing.

[00:04:25]

And that's also the story of the queen of Resorts herself, Atlantic City. In its early days, Atlantic City was billed as a health resort.

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The idea was that the air there would cure people of illnesses. And I love that. One of the references is that they promised that if you come to Atlantic City that you'll get lots of ozone.

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That's Bryant Simon. He's a history professor at Temple University and the author of the book Boardwalk of Dreams, Atlantic City and the Fate of Urban America. And I can tell you from a recent trip to New Jersey's most famous shore, I took in tons of ozone and now I'm cured of the vapors.

[00:05:04]

By the early 1980s, Atlantic City had shed its health resort vibe and started attracting a new white middle class who suddenly had leisure time.

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Thanks to a changing American economy as a destination, Atlantic City offered affordable luxury for the masses, and it was a place to dress up and march and say, look, I have enough money to take a week off and dress up and do nothing. And that quickly became the more important thing, the thing that would make Atlantic City America's first great middle class resort to Disneyland before there was Disneyland.

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The key feature was the boardwalk with a capital B like the most expensive monopoly property.

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The original four mile long wooden walkway as wide as a two lane highway in some places was finished in 1916. And it was one of the most important promenades of the day, a place to see and be seen.

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People on the boardwalk save their best clothes for when they walk down the boardwalk and they want to more clothing.

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They were meant to be ostentatious and over the top pants that were creased so sharply they could cut you in the middle of the summer.

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Women wearing cashmere sweaters with mink stole not worrying about sweating.

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They wanted you to notice the mink stole. And at the heart of that right was this ride down the boardwalk in a rowing chair.

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The rolling chair was one of the most unique attractions of early Atlantic City and one of the most troubling.

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So think of a two person chair made out of wicker and then give it wheels and a handle the back so it can be pushed. It's like a rickshaw, but there's no real transportation purpose. The people getting pushed along had no particular place to go and the job of rolling chair plusher that was generally reserved for black men.

[00:06:52]

It was a fantasy for white immigrants who sometimes were not included in the American story, for Jews, particularly for Italians, for the Irish to be fully made into Americans. And how do you become fully made into Americans? You become white and part of being white is controlling black labour.

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I mean, that is the story of America.

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This boardwalk novelty, along with the elegant hotels and restaurants staffed by black workers, allowed white vacationers to live out their race and class role playing fantasies. And this friction would permeate the city for decades to come. Symond jokes that Atlantic City's heyday was when everything along the boardwalk was shiny and new, like almost 100 years ago. But at least from a population standpoint, he's right. The city topped out at sixty six thousand year round residents in 1930. Around that time, Prohibition brought all kinds of ne'er do wells to town, doing things that ne'er do wells do boozing and booze, hauls, flopping and flophouses.

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Your garden variety hustling by war to the city had tidied itself up and pitched in to the war effort housing convalescing soldiers in the city's Grand Jazz Age hotels.

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And it's still captured a place in the country's imagination on the.

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Next city, we will walk in a dream on the board. Life will be peaches and cream, and that is the timeless voice of Mr. Dick Haymes, but everything wasn't peaches and cream for Atlantic City post-war were to progress in the city ground to a halt.

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This is a place that lives on fumes for a long time. Business holds out in the 1950s, its past. Today, there's not a lot of investment. There's not much new housing being built. So it's really one of these places where a lot of small American cities where the heyday is 1929.

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Plus, as the country's black population became more upwardly mobile and began vacationing at the shore, a lot of white people retreated to the burbs and the backyard pools there in, you know, your standard grounds, white flight story.

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I would argue that race and racism kill Atlantic City, that middle class whites no longer wanted to vacation in places that were diverse, and so that they went to seek places that could create that exclusion. And that's Disneyland.

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In 1964, the city tried to pretty itself up for the Democratic National Convention, but reporters still wrote about how trashy the city had become. The hotels were in disrepair, the stores were boarded up, and hucksters tried to shake people down for money at every turn. By the early 1970s, the city was desolate. Brian Simon says residents used to joke that you could roll a bowling ball down the center of the boardwalk and it wouldn't hit anyone. Which probably wasn't a hilarious joke.

[00:09:45]

If you ran one of the boardwalks, Penny Arcades or Hot Dog Stands or 9000 saltwater taffy shops, local leaders knew they had to make a drastic change or else Atlantic City was going to become a ghost town. So they proposed a little plan to change their luck. They would become Vegas by the sea.

[00:10:03]

Atlantic City used to be the resort area in the country. It deteriorated.

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New Jersey Gov. Brendan Byrne bet the house on casino gambling in Atlantic City and the move to revive a sense of hope to the place to revitalize and spur jobs and restore its reputation.

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Yes, there will be problems like making sure organized crime is kept out. But as a former judge and prosecutor, that's something I know how to do. And as governor, that's what I intend to do.

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In 1976, New Jersey voters passed a referendum allowing casino gambling in Atlantic City. Before this, Nevada was the only U.S. state with a legal gambling operation.

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The decision was monumental. Drive around this town enough and you can feel the changes coming.

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It's not part of the regular scene like, say, Salt-Water taffy, but in among those familiar landmarks and down the length of Atlantic Avenue, you sense the excitement and challenge of change on the way. Now, of course, all cities change, but a bold new decision sets a city in motion for Atlantic City. The decision of the century was casino gambling.

[00:11:13]

Once casinos were legalized, that was kind of transformative for the city and made the city a much, much more interesting place to be and to work.

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That's Dan Hennigan. He was the gaming writer for the press of Atlantic City for 20 years. He also worked at the New Jersey Casino Control Commission. So he knows a little something about the business of chance. We are walking along the longest boardwalk in the world on an absolutely scorching hot day like I was sweating through my trousers. So cute.

[00:11:43]

Hennigan remembers that after the referendum, the city was deluged with casino bids from all kinds of operators.

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At one point, we counted somewhere around 46 different proposals for casinos.

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Oh, my God, yes. That obviously didn't happen.

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But in order to make way for the glitz and glamour, new casinos, most of the old legendary Atlantic City hotels, including the Traymore and the Marlboro Millennium, were demolished because when the chips are down, you better put on your poker face double down and go for broke. The first casino to open in Atlantic City was Resorts, which is like who's on first situation resorts is actually the worst name for a resort.

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Am I the only one who thinks this?

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Anyway, the hype around resorts opening was huge. I mean, one resorts opened. It was swamped. It was absolutely mobbed. Yeah. The biggest problem they had, they didn't have to do any marketing they had.

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They had to do a lot more with crowd control. They couldn't count the money that they won fast enough. Right.

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I mean, they would run out of coin.

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Here's how Harrigan's old paper, the press of Atlantic City, described resorts opening at the time.

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Quote, The wheels are spinning and the dice are rolling and the coins are clinking in the grand old damn Atlantic City has a saucy swivel in her hips she never had before.

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The city will never be the same again. And that writer was correct, the city was never the same, but perhaps not in the way the writer expected, Resorts was part of the first wave of casinos to open in Atlantic City. It was followed closely by Caesars Palace and Harrah's, all Vegas mainstays. Nine casinos opened in the span of three years and they were great for the city. They brought year round employment and tax revenue. Plus the building boom made the city feel alive again.

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But then they kind of hit the wall and the number of casinos, the amount of casino space had grown faster than the demand for it did. So in 1981 or so, places were losing money.

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Basically, there were too many casinos and not enough gamblers. And it was in that environment that Mr. Trump first came to town.

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We're going to take a quick break so I can go hit the slots. Big money, big money, big money. When we come back, how Donald Trump's casino empire took shape with the help of junk bonds, 1800 lawsuits and an illegal three point five million dollar loan from Daddy Trump. And then how the whole operation fell apart. I am not a gambler. I feel like it's real important to flag that up front. I know that roulette has a wheel and craps has a bunch of dice.

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And if you play any game long enough, the house will eventually win. The first time I ever went to a casino. I expect it to be like Monte Carlo with glamorous people and gowns and tuxedos. Everyone will be smoking and was drinking martinis shaken, not stirred. Not so. Casinos, at least in America, are for the masses.

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And recently at Atlantic City's Golden Nugget Casino, my producer Whitney and I were those masses.

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Oh, I'm sorry. I'm not playing a 25 dollar thing. I'm not prepared to lose twenty five dollars. The Golden Nugget is the eighth best ranked casino out of nine, according to the news website. And JD.com, the casino features about 1500 slot machines, which for a person with sensitive ears like me, is about 499 slot machines. To many in the sea of machines, it was hard to know which one to pick, which game should be played by your house Spartacus, Napoleon, Josephine Pirate Ship or the Double Diamond Deluxe Troubled Diamonds.

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We settled on the game called Triple Double Diamond and fed a five dollar bill into the machine. Sadly, we didn't quite know how to play today's one armed bandits or just a bunch of flashing buttons and loud dings. The recently video games with no fun levers to pull. So this is it. We're playing. We're playing the slots right now. Yeah, this is the set. Yeah. Do you want to play the remaining ones? No, you're right.

[00:16:15]

You're right. You're doing great.

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In fact, I wasn't got to get that triple diamond cut to three minutes later for jumping.

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Lost all the money, you lost all of our money, you lost all of my money. So now the Golden Nugget is five dollars richer. You're welcome, Casino. We picked the Golden Nugget not because of what it is now, but because of what it used to be. See, before the Golden Nugget was the eighth best casino in Atlantic City, it began its life as part of Donald Trump's gaming empire.

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Is it possible in the late 70s, Trump was just beginning to grow his real estate development business, one of his early projects was the Commodore Hotel in midtown Manhattan. In the middle of the Commodore deal, Trump got wind of just how much money a mid tier casino could bring in. This is from his book, The Art of the Deal. Now, for the first time, it occurred to me that even if I finally got the hotel built and it became a major success in the greatest city in the world, it still wouldn't be nearly as profitable as a moderately successful casino hotel in a small desert town in the southwest.

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I tried to get my producer to read that in his best Trump voice, but he refused. SAT in order to understand the growth of Trump's gaming empire, you first have to understand a little about the man at this time. And for that, we'll turn to Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter David Cay Johnston. He's covered Trump since the late 1980s.

[00:17:59]

He was the story of Atlantic City, had two casinos, and he's a flamboyant character, unlike the other casino executives who are boring suits. He was clearly out marketing himself as this impresario.

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Johnson says fellow casino owners and state regulators were of the opinion that while Trump might be great at selling a brand, he might not be so hot at running a gambling operation.

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And they said Donald is not an operator. And I go, What do you mean, Donald is not? And what does that mean? And it was code for other people run the business because he doesn't know anything about the casino business.

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As with most things involving Trump, the story gets real complicated real fast. In 1982, Trump received a license to run a casino in Atlantic City. The approval hearing took just minutes. According to Trump, he had gotten his financing in place and had received all the appropriate permits. When he got a call from the CEO of the company that owned Harrah's casinos, they wanted to partner with Trump on his new venture. And Trump was like, Oh, hell, yeah.

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Partnering with Harrah's meant that Harrah's would put up the financing for the project and Trump wouldn't have to risk anything. And to have that all taken care of on his first casino outing, that was huge.

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Sorry. So just like that, Trump is out of the casino to his growing portfolio of properties.

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So the attraction was this was quick, easy money and low risk compared to being a developer. Normal was never a big developer. You know, he claims he's the biggest developer in New York. He was nowhere near that. He wasn't even in the top five or ten.

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But this was an easy way to make a lot of money.

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Trump Plaza opened in 1984 to great fanfare. The casino and hotel took up an entire city block and featured 60000 square feet of gaming space. It was sleek and flashy and gave the common man a glimpse into the brass and class of Trump's New York world. Also, it made a lot of cash.

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Trump Plaza, his first casino, which is right at the center of the boardwalk, was a mighty cash engine that was just spewing money into his pocket left and right.

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Shortly after Trump Plaza opened on the boardwalk, Trump had the opportunity to open an even bigger casino on the city's marina. The Hilton hotel chain had built a hugely expensive waterfront casino. The Casino Control Commission denied its application for a license. It seems surprising that Baron Hilton, owner of one of the largest hotel chains in the world, couldn't get a casino license. But Donald Trump could, especially given the criteria which former gaming reporter Dan Hannigan explains are good character, honesty, integrity.

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You also have to show things like your financial stability, your business ability, and this applies to everyone involved holding company above it up to the parent company.

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Any key employee, officers, directors all have to meet this standard. After being denied a license, Hilton was desperate to get his project back on track while simultaneously trying to fend off a takeover by Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn.

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So when Donald Trump called with an offer to buy the stalled casino project, Hilton reluctantly answered Trump borrowed 350 million, then took a five million dollar fee off the top to pay himself for the deal.

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And he named the new operation Trump's Castle. It opened in 1985, just a year after Trump Plaza roulette wheel started spinning naturally. Trump's partners in his first casino weren't thrilled about the new purchase, which would directly compete with their investment. Harrah's sued Trump, but eventually he just bought out the company's shares again with borrowed money. That lawsuit was just one of nearly 8500 that Trump's casinos were involved in, despite all those lawsuits. David Cay Johnston says Trump was never personally on the hook for anything financially.

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Donald never had a dollar invested in any of his casinos. In the first one, he got money up front from his partners. The second one, the Hilton. He borrowed 100 percent of the purchase price and took a five million dollar fee off the top for himself. The third one, same thing. He took fees in advance. So it never did Donald Trump have a dollar. He had no skin in the game in Atlantic City.

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So his rate of return, you can't calculate. It's infinite.

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People wanted what Trump was selling and that was gold plated grandeur, an everyman sort of luxury. And he promoted that using the ultimate equalizer boxing. Trump Plaza was legendary for its fight nights, and there was none more legendary than the 1988 heavyweight title bout between Mike Tyson and Michael Spinks.

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And this time, ladies and gentlemen, two special introductions, first in the ring, and this time the gentleman responsible for bringing this spectacular event to Atlantic City. And I would like him to be properly acknowledged. He's a man who successful business epitomizes the American dream. The author of the year's best selling book, The Art of the Deal. His vision and accomplishment make them the quintessential entrepreneur. Ladies and gentlemen, New Jersey, thank him, our host, for this great evening o championship boxing, Mr.

[00:23:11]

Donald J. Trump ringside seats when for fifteen hundred dollars, each and every celebrity who was anyone was there that night. Oprah, Madonna. A handful of Madonna's ex-boyfriend, Tyson, won by a knockout just 91 seconds in. But the match brought in more than 70 million dollars. At the time, it was the highest grossing fight in history. It's all over. Trump Plaza Casino earned millions more than usual that night, thanks to high rollers feeling particularly flush.

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The Donald had become an unstoppable force in Atlantic City. Fresh off his Taison Spinks windfall, Trump bought the old Playboy Atlantis Casino for 63 million dollars and renamed it Trump Regency. So if you're keeping track, that's three Atlantic City properties for Trump in five years. Then came the biggest deal of Trump's career, the Taj Mahal.

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Amidst great hoopla this week, Donald Trump is opening his one billion dollar Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City.

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Some economists call it a reckless gamble, but the customers we talked to seem to like it just fine. This is truly the eighth wonder of the world.

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Do you think the Taj Mahal is beyond belief from any standpoint? And we think it's going to be a tremendous success.

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Despite the lavish layout, it isn't the world's largest casino. These people have come to see what brought them. Here is the resort's charismatic and controversial owner, Donald Trump.

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That's a pre Fox News. Bill O'Reilly doing an Inside Edition puff piece on Trump in 1990.

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Oh, simpler times. The Taj Mahal was a beast of a resort at the time. It was the tallest building in New Jersey with more than 200 hotel rooms, 12 restaurants and a strip club. Because why not? But at the end of the day, the Taj was still just a casino.

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Trump's third in what was already an oversaturated market when he got his third casino, the Taj Mahal, he was competing against himself. You know that when General Motors had the Cadillac, the Buick Fields reveal the Pontiac and the Chevrolet, they differentiated them.

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Trump's three casinos and four hotels all pretty much attracted the same clientele. The only real difference was how they were financed. Like Trump's two other Atlantic City casinos, the Taj wasn't Trump's original development. He swooped in when the owner of the company developing the property died. He then beat out entertainment legend Merv Griffin for ownership of the casino that would become the Taj. Now, this casino wasn't cheap, but Trump had to have it. It promised to be the its most Disneyfied casino in the city, so he found a way to finance it.

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And how did Trump pay for this leviathan of loot, junk bonds? Now, if you listen to our previous episodes, you'll be familiar with the concept. If you're new to the show, welcome. A junk bond is a risky financial product that offers the promise of a big payout for the investor if the issuer of the bond is successful and it can get much needed cash to the bond issuer quickly, but it can also put them up to their eyeballs in debt just as fast.

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Junk bonds are basically injecting debt onto the books of your company, the same way that heroin dealers get. You inject drugs into your bloodstream and it makes you feel good for a while. But unless you have produced really phenomenal profits, the interest rate is so high you're not going to recover.

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And Donald borrowed money in one case at fourteen and a quarter percent interest for one of his casino deals. So when you add up all the money that Trump owed all over town with his other properties, plus these junk bonds, which, by the way, he told the Casino Control Commission he wasn't going to use it was more than a billion dollars on the line. And Trump had personally guaranteed 833 million dollars of that. Sometimes when you can't afford your debts, you have to ask people for help.

[00:27:11]

In Trump's case, he called on his father, Fred, in 1990, shortly after the Taj opened, Trump was having trouble making interest payments on one of his loans. So Poppa Trump sent an emissary to Trump's castle to buy three point five dollars million in chips that were never going to be used. But the Casino Control Commission got wind of this and the casino had to pay a sixty five thousand dollar penalty for accepting an illegal loan. Still, says Dan Hennigan, Trump's appeal remained miraculously intact.

[00:27:42]

And we all know there was a certain allure to Trump that he created this this image, that he was a big, rich, powerful guy and folks wanted to be close to him. And he certainly fed that image here and created a buzz in town anytime he was around.

[00:28:04]

If you have followed even a minute of coverage about Trump's presidency, this will likely sound familiar to you. But in Atlantic City, the buzz didn't last. In 1991, things started to go south for Trump's casino empire. First, Trump Plaza had to pay a 200000 penalty for discriminating against black and female dealers. Apparently, the casino would remove those dealers from the floor when one particular high roller played. You would actually flip out if he saw people dealing cards who weren't white man.

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Then the Taj Mahal filed for bankruptcy, buckling under the weight of all those junk bonds. Trump Plaza and Trump Castle followed with bankruptcies of their own not long after year. Trump in 1992 explaining his no good, very bad year to late night. David Letterman. Now, were you ever near broke? I was never near broke. I was having a good time and I it was a good year to get a divorce.

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But let's go back.

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Let's go back, if you don't mind. What did you have to unload? Well, I didn't unload. I sold things. I sold the shuttle. All right. The shuttle is no longer the Trump shuttle. I, I, I unloaded the wife.

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Super classy. What a guy. Not only did Trump lose his airline, but he was also forced to give up his yacht and other holdings. Oh.

[00:29:19]

And he had been put on an allowance of 450000 dollars a month. After all those bankruptcy proceedings, Trump's casino operation was desperate for cash. So in 1995, he created a public company to house all of his gambling enterprises. The stock ticker symbol for his company was J2EE Donald Trump.

[00:29:38]

Donald only had one publicly traded company and everybody lost money in that company. Vendors weren't paid, workers sometimes weren't paid. But Donald walked away with at least 83 million dollars. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

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Between 1995 and 2000, lots of reshuffling happened in Trump's casino operation. One property got demolished, another got renamed. And by 2001, the stock and Trump's public company was trading for about the price of a turn on a slot machine not too big like a. In 2004, Trump's public company, Trump Entertainment Resorts, filed for Chapter 11. So for those playing along at home were up to four bankruptcies related to Trump's casinos so far. Then the parent company was delisted from the New York Stock Exchange.

[00:30:27]

By this point, Trump's gambling halls were starting to look a little long in the tooth, especially in the shadow of the sexy new Borgata Casino. Dan Hennigan says because Trump's casino company was leveraged to the hilt, it was hard to find the resources for anything more than a quick spit shine or patch job.

[00:30:44]

You come down as a player and its place starts to look a little shabby. A property nearby that is reinvesting, that closes one restaurant and opens up a brand new one. You're going over there and you're seeing this kind of dynamic property. You come to a place that's in financial trouble and you see something that's a lot more static and it loses the excitement.

[00:31:09]

But deferred maintenance and competition from new properties weren't the only reasons Trump's Atlantic City operation was struggling. Neighboring states had slowly been legalizing casino gambling since 1993. By the mid 2000s, gamblers had options up and down the eastern seaboard.

[00:31:24]

So there's a convenience market that would be purely looking for can I go and gamble? And if it's within my driving distance, 20 minutes, I'll go and do that.

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That's Rami panned it. He's the executive director of the Lloyd Levinson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University. He says this market saturation has forced casino owners to rethink their approach.

[00:31:48]

As time went by, other markets in the area opened up Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, Maryland.

[00:31:57]

Therefore, the shift had to be made, which is what Atlantic City is looking at doing now is how can we follow a model that's going to bring people in as a destination resort?

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Sure. Trump brought boxing in later wrestling to Atlantic City, and Trump's castle had its own live TV game show called Trump Card Cut.

[00:32:19]

Oh, and the strip club can't forget about that. But there was a lot to differentiate the city or its casinos. Unlike in Las Vegas, Celine Dion wasn't doing residencies at the Taj and Cirque du Soleil didn't stage a gasp inducing show at Trump Plaza in 2006, Atlantic City casino revenue peaked out at five point two dollars billion. Then the city and its gambling industry took a tumble and Trump's properties were falling faster than the rest. In 2009, Trump Entertainment Resorts filed for bankruptcy.

[00:32:51]

Again, that brings our tally to five. This time, Trump was pushed out as chairman of the board, though he did retain a ten percent stake in the company for use of his name. His daughter Ivanka, who was also on the board, was scooted on out the door as well. David Cay Johnston.

[00:33:08]

Basically the people who control the enterprise, Carl Icahn and his buddies, they paid Donald to go away. Donald had no more marquee value for them.

[00:33:17]

You know, people weren't lining up saying, oh, we want to go meet Donald. And they needed to cut down every expense they could and, you know, feeding Donnel just was no longer a viable option.

[00:33:29]

By 2014, Trump Entertainment resorts, now under the ownership of buyout king Carl Icahn had gone bankrupt one more time. That was number six and two out of the three Trump casinos had closed. A year later, the Treasury Department fined the Taj Mahal ten million dollars for money laundering violations, something Trump's casinos also got popped for back in the 90s.

[00:33:53]

The final day in the Trump casino saga was cast by a worthy foe, the Casino Workers Union. The union charge the Taj Mahal with failing to uphold its collective bargaining agreement that guaranteed employees health care and a pension. In a proposal, Trump Entertainment resorts suggested that because employees could get Obamacare, the casino didn't need to provide health care.

[00:34:15]

It could just give full time workers a stipend to pay for health care on the exchange.

[00:34:20]

And the union was like, nope.

[00:34:26]

Carl Icahn, the Taj's owner, estimated that rehabbing the outdated casino would have cost 100 million dollars. The dispute with the union pushed him over the edge rather than up the ante, Icahn folded the Trump Taj Mahal wants Atlantic City's flashiest casino was done. The Taj shuddered just hours after then candidate Trump's second presidential debate with Hillary Clinton, 3000 people lost their jobs. Naturally, his opposition cast the failure as one of the many reasons why the Donald wasn't fit to be leader of the free world.

[00:34:59]

Clinton took that message right to the city's iconic boardwalk.

[00:35:03]

We're standing in front of the old Trump Plaza Casino and hotel. Donald Trump once predicted it will be the biggest hit yet.

[00:35:16]

Now it's abandoned. You can just make out the word Trump, where it used to be written in flashy lights. He had the letters taken down a few years ago, but his presence remains OK.

[00:35:36]

Looking back, you can totally see why she didn't win.

[00:35:39]

So it's fair to ask, since he is applying for a job, what in the world happened here, girl?

[00:35:51]

The collapse of Trump's Atlantic City empire came up over and over on the campaign trail. Fox News host Chris Wallace asked Trump about it during one of the Republican primary debates.

[00:36:00]

Questions with that record. Why should we trust you to run the nation's business?

[00:36:06]

Because I have used the laws of this country just like the greatest people that you read about every day in business have used the laws of this country, the chapter laws to do a great job for my company, for myself, for my employees, for my family, etc.. I have never gone bankrupt, by the way. I have never but out of hundreds of such serves me.

[00:36:28]

That's your line. But the company is bankrupt out of what am I saying?

[00:36:33]

Out of hundreds of deals that I've done hundreds on four occasions, I've taken advantage of the laws of this country. Like other people, I'm not going to name their names because I'm not going to embarrass. But virtually every person that you read about on the front page of the business sections, they've used the. The difference is when somebody else uses those laws, nobody writes about it.

[00:36:54]

But then Trump is all like, you got to know and to hold them, you got to know when to fold.

[00:36:58]

Let me just tell you, I had the good sense and I've gotten a lot of credit in the financial pages. Seven years ago, I left Atlantic City before it totally cratered. And I made a lot of money in Atlantic City and I'm very proud of it. I want to tell you that very, very proud of it.

[00:37:14]

Now, remember, it was six bankruptcies, three for the individual casinos and three for the holding company. Another fact check. Trump was pushed out of the public company that he started, but not before he raked in a ton of cash, though the casinos, investors, vendors and workers, many of those folks took a haircut.

[00:37:34]

David Cay Johnston says Trump left an indelible stain on the place.

[00:37:39]

Atlantic City would be a lot better off today if Donald Trump had never come to town. Donald was there to just extract as much cash as he could as quickly as he could with no regard for what that means to the community. Today, two of Trump's old casinos have new life, Trump's castles, Trump Arena is now the Golden Nugget. And in late 2016, the Seminole Tribe, which owns the Hard Rock brand, bought the Taj Mahal for pennies on the dollar and turned it into the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

[00:38:12]

There is one vestige of Trump left in Atlantic City, and that's the property that started it all. The old Trump Plaza sits derelict in the middle of the boardwalk.

[00:38:22]

The sea air has not been kind to the building, and it's been crumbling for years. Trump's name has been pried off the casino, but you can still see the outline of the letters. It was scheduled to be demolished in 2018, but the deadline passed. And much like its namesake, it's still standing in games of chance. The House has a built in advantage. Most players will eventually lose. And the more times a player plays, the more he loses.

[00:38:49]

There is apparently one exception to this rule. President Donald Trump read them and weep.

[00:39:00]

Spectacular failures as a production of American Public Media and the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, it's hosted and produced by me, huge loser Lauren Ober, huge winner with Jones, is the show's producer. Our editor is high roller Phyllis Fletcher. Our theme music is by the delightful David Schulman. Other original music in the show comes from the Jeremy's Jeremy Castillo and Jeremy Ray Laurinda is the interim director of podcasts at APM. Our other stellar APM buds include Alissa Dudly, Tracy Mumford and Christina Lopez, Big Love to the Marketplace D.C. bureau, especially Betsy Streisand, the APM engineering staff, Johnny Vince Evans, Veronica Rodriguez and Corey Trouble are the heroes we need but don't deserve super.

[00:39:43]

Lots of thanks. Go to the following people. Hanna Rosin, just leave. Dan Zak, Molly Harris, Lulu Miller, Family Dinner, Radio Girl Gang, including band Malinga, Big Bear Cafe, The Thrupp and the Numero Uno. Michael de Antonios book The Truth about Trump was super helpful for this episode, as was the making of Donald Trump by our pal David Cay Johnston. And thanks so much to you, our extremely successful listeners, for checking the show out.

[00:40:09]

This is the last episode of the season, but hit us up online. We are in all the places. And finally, much gratitude to Pat Schmidly at Los Amigos for saving us from the casino buffets with her delicious vegan tacos.

[00:40:22]

Dolly Parton has been here. Wait, what? Dolly Parton is here this week. Stop it. Yeah, she liked Cyndi, weighed in on her kitchen stairs, and she's tinier than Cyndi. I feel like I want to cry right now because I'm the biggest Dolly Parton fan. And that just makes me so thrilled that she came in and she came like she came in eighty here.

[00:40:48]

Now for some Busways with Professor Gordon Birch, he's a McKnight presidential fellow at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, and he has some advice for anyone considering a side hustle in the gig economy. I think it's really important to take a moment and be mindful of where my costs coming from, how much should I spend on gas? What was the depreciation on my vehicle from the additional miles I drove? How much did I pay for insurance?

[00:41:16]

People typically don't think about those things and they need to and listen up, ride share companies. Maybe the platform should be doing more to facilitate that. For them, it's a good idea to probably apply that information in a way that helps people make better decisions to make the market more efficient.

[00:41:38]

Hey, friends, I want to tell you about another podcast you might want to check out. It's called Cautionary Tales, and it has returned with special episodes about how the world came to be turned upside down by covid-19, why people behave the way they did during the pandemic and where we all might wind up in the difficult years to come. Host Tim Harford draws from history and social science to vividly retell the stories of great crimes, accidents and disasters of the past, pointing out valuable lessons for us all from the injustices, death and destruction.

[00:42:09]

You'll witness mass evacuations as great waves wash away. Whole cities sit in a crowded cabaret as flames creep closer and closer to the auditorium and visit the plague hit town that locks the gates and awaits death to save its neighbors.

[00:42:24]

Subscribe to cautionary tales on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen from our pals at Pushkin Industries.