Donald Trump back in Atlantic City

Is Donald Trump serious about saving Atlantic City or is he just interested in publicity? (Image: AP)

Can Donald Trump save Atlantic City? And will he?

The word from The Donald is that he can, and what’s more, he says he’s exactly what AC has been missing all these years. As the Trump Plaza shuttered its doors this week and its non-Donald-related owner Trump Entertainment prepared to file for bankruptcy, the billionaire real estate mogul announced that he is “looking into” mounting a rescue attempt.

Asked by the Press of Atlantic City whether he would step in to save The Trump Plaza and its at-risk sister property, the Trump Taj Mahal, the Donald said, “We’ll see what happens. If I can help the people of Atlantic City I’ll do it.”

Later, on Twitter, and clearly warming to his theme, Trump said: “I left Atlantic City years ago, good timing. Now I may buy back in, at much lower cost, to save Plaza & Taj. They were run badly by funds!”

Trump has been hugely critical of his former company Trump Entertainment in recent months, and has sought to distance himself from its stricken casino properties. In July, perhaps catching wind of impending bankruptcy, he launched legal proceedings to have his name removed from the casinos in an attempt to safeguard his brand, of which he is hugely protective.

Sentimental Side?

“Since Mr. Trump left Atlantic City many years ago,” states the lawsuit, “the license entities have allowed the casino properties to fall into an utter state of disrepair and have otherwise failed to operate and manage the casino properties in accordance with the high standards of quality and luxury required under the license agreement.”

Trump left the New Jersey casino industry in 2009, and Trump Entertainment was bought out by a group of hedge fund managers and corporate bondholders, who were allowed to retain the brand name in return for a 10 percent ownership stake for Trump in the reorganized company. He has had nothing to do with the casinos’ day-to-day operations since then.

“Does anybody notice that Atlantic City lost its magic after I left years ago,” Trump tweeted. “It is so sad to see what has happened to Atlantic City. So many bad decisions by the pols over the years: airport, convention center, etc.”

In the early ’80s, Trump embarked on a joint project with Holiday Inn and Harrahs to build the Holiday Inn Casino Hotel. It was completed in 1984, and he promptly bought out his business partners and renamed the property the Trump Plaza. It was the first casino he ever owned, and this week it closed. Could it be that the notoriously cold-blooded property developer has a sentimental side? Or is it, just, as many people think, that he can’t resist some good publicity?

Publicity Stunt a Possibility

Senator Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic) believes in the latter explanation.

“Donald is a guy who likes to see his name in the paper,” he said. “He’s never been shy about seeking publicity or obtaining publicity. The question is whether this is more publicity for Donald or whether he is serious about coming back to Atlantic City in a real way. We’ll see down the line. Is Donald Trump looking to get some publicity, or is he serious? And if he’s serious, come on in and write some checks.”

“I can see Donald’s ego wanting him to come back as a savior,” agreed gaming consultant Steve Norton. “I don’t think Donald’s name would help the casinos that much,” he said. “Our problem is, other casinos have opened up and cut off traffic from Philadelphia and New York.”

Intriguingly, and as if to spite the naysayers, the Trump’s helicopter was seen arriving on the roof of the Taj on Tuesday. Could it be that Trump is really prepared to put his money where his mouth is?