ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – When Trump Plaza opened on May 14, 1984, Donald Trump called it the finest building in Atlantic City, and possibly the nation.
But since then, The Donald has left town and cut ties to its casinos. And the Plaza, like many Atlantic City casinos, has seen better days.
A downward spiral that saw it ranked dead last among the city's casinos will end Tuesday morning with the closing of Trump Plaza, the fourth Atlantic City casino to go belly-up this year.
Unlike Revel, which opened just over two years ago and is still considered new and luxurious, or the still-profitable Showboat, shuttered by its owner in the name of reducing competition for the remaining casinos in town, the demise of Trump Plaza could be seen a long way off.
Despite its prime location at the heart of the Boardwalk and the end of the Atlantic City Expressway (its motto has been "The Center Of It All"), gamblers have been abandoning Trump Plaza for newer, ritzier casinos for years. Its owners, Trump Entertainment Resorts, let it deteriorate in recent years, particularly after a sale for the bargain-basement price of $20 million to a California firm fell through last year.
Jim Redmond is a 60-year-old from Montreal who loves Atlantic City and regularly stayed at Trump Plaza. He says its decline was obvious over the last seven years.
"It did slip every year," he said. "This year they had no bedspreads and they totally gave up on the ice machines. The common areas were a little dirtier than usual but we never felt our rooms were dirty. We did bring our own shower head because it was impossible to shower with that water-saver head.
"We went for a beach vacation and we gambled and ate at other casinos on the boardwalk," Redmond said. "This year the Plaza bar was closed and the 24 hour cafe closed at 2 p.m. The higher-end restaurants were closed. It was so sad to see it get a little worse every year. They really seemed to give up about five years ago."
One only had to walk from the parking garage through a glass-enclosed walkway over Pacific Avenue to the casino and be enveloped in searing heat that approached 100 degrees from the sun beating down on the glass to experience the property's frantic cost-cutting moves; air conditioning the area was one of the expenses that was deemed non-essential.
Illuminated letters advertising the casino's name on its front and back facades burned out and were never replaced. Visitors to the Miss America pageant last week at Boardwalk Hall next door saw a neon sign proclaiming "Trump Plaz Hotel & Cas." On the Boardwalk side, the sign read, "U Laza."
Many restaurants on the first and third floors have been shut down for months. Along an escalator leading to them, fake plastic plants were either missing or stolen from row after row of trays. A self-serve kiosk to redeem player's club points near the parking garage was disconnected and covered in dust.
So far this year, Trump Plaza has won just $36.8 million from gamblers. That's down 31.5 percent from the same period last year, and about the same amount as the Borgata wins during an average two-week period.
Atlantic City began the year with 12 casinos; by breakfast time Tuesday, it will have eight. And the contraction might not even be over. Trump Entertainment is threatening to close its sole remaining casino, the Trump Taj Mahal, on Nov. 13 if it can't wrest significant concessions from its unions, including having workers give up their health insurance and pensions.