The report from the New York Times regarding Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s 1995 tax returns — in which he claimed a loss of $916 million — helped illustrate how poorly the billionaire likely did in the Atlantic City casino business.
Inside Trump’s tax returns
The New York Times dropped a bombshell recently, when it reported that it received portions of some of Trump’s state tax returns anonymously via the mail.
Trump, of course, has not yet released his federal tax returns, which it is custom for presidential candidates to do.
The net operating loss by Trump in excess of $900 million almost certainly included his failures in the AC market. Trump has relied on his business acumen as a major selling point in conducting his campaign to date.
From the initial NYT report:
Indeed, by 1990, his entire business empire was on the verge of collapse. In a few short years, he had amassed $3.4 billion in debt — personally guaranteeing $832 million of it — to assemble a portfolio that included three casinos and a hotel in Atlantic City, the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan, an airline and a huge yacht.
Reports that year by New Jersey casino regulators gave glimpses of the balance sheet carnage.The Trump Taj Mahal casino reported a $25.5 million net loss during its first six months of 1990; the Trump’s Castle casino lost $43.5 million for the year.
‘Possibility of a complete financial collapse’
A subsequent NYT report elaborated on how casino losses in AC were likely baked into the $916 million figure:
The Castle casino in Atlantic City recorded total losses of $93.2 million in 1990 and 1991. The Trump Regency hotel there lost $8.3 million in 1991. The Trump Plaza casino lost $29.2 million in 1991.
Casino regulators in New Jersey warned that “the possibility of a complete financial collapse of the Trump Organization is not out of the question.” Most, if not all, of those losses would pass through to Mr. Trump’s tax returns because of the ownership structure of the casinos.
Trump is no longer in the AC market; most of the properties attached to Trump have shuttered. The last Trump property that still bears his name — Trump Taj Mahal — is about to close its doors, even though he has no interest in the casino anymore.
Trump’s issues in AC have long been fodder for the presidential election season in NJ.
Trump wasn’t good at creating AC jobs, either
Lots of reporting has been done on Trump’s AC casinos of late, as well. That includes some detailed analysis from Salon, which showed that his properties underperformed even in a bad market.
He was making way less money, and employing fewer people, than his competitors. On jobs:
The average headcount at Trump’s Atlantic City casinos declined by 50 percent during the period, from 4,926 employees in 1997 to 2,463 in 2010, for a mean loss of 2,463 per location. The average non-Trump casino, by contrast, lost 35 percent of its employees, dropping from 4,468 to 2,921 for a loss of 1,547 jobs. In other words, Trump lost an average of about 900 more employees per casino than his competitors, a 37 percent difference.
And on revenue:
As for their financial performance, average revenues for Trump’s casinos fell 42 percent, from US$377 million in 1999 to $220 million in 2010. Revenue at the average non-Trump casino, by contrast, declined 27 percent in the same period, from $394 million to $286 million.
While the entire Atlantic City casino industry suffered as neighboring states like Pennsylvania and Connecticut eased gambling laws, Trump’s performed significantly worse, as their revenue on average fell $50 million per casino more than his rivals’ – or a third more.
The amount of taxes Trump did or did not pay may not be his undoing. But his inability to make money in casinos certainly hurts his argument that he is a brilliant businessman.