During the course of his presidential campaign, Donald Trump has talked a lot about what a great businessman he is. He’s built his campaign around the idea that his numerous successful business ventures make him uniquely suited to deal with the problems facing America. Yet questions about his supposed success have been plaguing him since his candidacy began, especially in regards to his Atlantic City casinos. The New York Times recently reported that Trump’s casinos aren’t the success story he’s making them out to be.
Trump has said that Atlantic City was a big success for him and that the money made there was “incredible,” but all of his Atlantic City casinos have either closed their doors or are operating under new ownership. He claims that the problem wasn’t with him, but rather Atlantic City. In his defense, Atlantic City’s gaming industry has fallen on hard times and it might never return to its glory days of the 1980s and 1990s. However, the facts remain that Trump’s casinos were having problems long before the rest of Atlantic City’s gaming industry.
One of the major problems facing Trump’s casinos was the fact that he financed them by taking out a large amount of debt. So much, in fact, that it was nearly impossible for them succeed in the long-term. Trump and his companies were taken to bankruptcy court four times, but Trump always managed to stay in control despite the fact that the casinos were not doing well. Eventually, he had no choice but to go public and passed a lot of the risk onto his shareholders.
Trump hasn’t made a secret of the fact that he has had a lot of debt. In fact, he seems rather proud of it. In one interview he even called himself the “king of debt” and implied that his experience in dealing with corporate debt could be useful in terms of dealing with the government’s debt.
‘I am the king of debt. I love debt. I love playing with it.’
All this talk of debt raises another question concerning Trump’s casinos. Were they a success? He would likely say they are since he did make a lot of money off of them, but the casinos themselves lost money.
‘And he never was able to draw in enough gamblers to support all of the borrowing. During a decade when other casinos here thrived, Mr. Trump’s lagged, posting huge losses year after year. Stock and bondholders lost more than $1.5 billion.’
Trump’s managerial style has also yielded mixed reviews. Some people, such as the former president of Trump’s casino companies, say he did a great job with the company. There can be no doubt that his casinos provided many jobs for Atlantic City and raised millions in tax revenue. On the other hand, some people, including one of Atlantic City’s top gaming regulators, argue that Trump hurt small businesses due to his refusal to pay for their services.
‘He put a number of local contractors and suppliers out of business when he didn’t pay them. So when he left Atlantic City, it wasn’t, “Sorry to see you go.” It was, “How fast can you get the hell out of here?”‘
In the end, whether or not Trump is a good businessman is really a matter of debate. If the goal of business is to make yourself rich then he is, undoubtedly, a success. However, it’s likely his shareholders and former employees would disagree. But, that might not even be the most important question. Instead of asking whether Trump is the right businessman to be president, perhaps we should be asking if the government should be run like a business at all.