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Atlantic City struggles to recover from damage by Trump brands

President Donald Trump has long portrayed himself as a successful businessman — it’s one of the key aspects of his image and his brand. His fortune and fame were offered as credentials when he ran for the presidency, and part of his appeal was that he is rich and successful enough that he would be less prone to monetary persuasion such as bribery or shady economic deals.

But Trump’s business failings are even more numerous and the topic of thousands of articles and arguments against him. The site of his most famous and public failings is none other than Atlantic City, New Jersey, where his casino brand has had to close or sell most of its assets following multiple bankruptcies over the past twenty years.

Trump himself doesn’t consider the loss of these casinos a failed venture, however. The fact that he personally pocketed millions of dollars while running these businesses into the ground, costing thousands of jobs and stiffing dozens of contractors for work done was enough for him to consider it a success. After all, his wealth increased, how could it be considered anything other than a success?

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Atlantic City’s beachfront area

The people of Atlantic City see it differently, however. The area’s economy has greatly suffered as a result of Trump’s business practices, and the locals don’t mind pointing the finger back at the president. Following the Great Recession and economic collapse of 2008, Trump Entertainment Resorts files for their third of four bankruptcies, and the unemployment rate shot up. It still sits at an abysmal 11 percent — one of the worst rates in the nation.

All of Trump’s casinos were either sold off or closed in subsequent years, with only one planning to reopen sometime next year, Trump Taj Mahal. However, President Trump no longer has a vested interest in the company and hasn’t officially since 2011, citing the blighted buildings as harmful to his brand name in an unsuccessful lawsuit that followed.

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Trump Taj Mahal is scheduled to reopen in 2018

Of course, Trump and his brands’ record of failure in Atlantic City were certainly not the only reason this area went blue in 2016. New Jersey has long been among the bluest of blue states, with Hillary Clinton breezing to victory here. Others in the area still have faith in the Trump name, believing him to be one of the reasons Atlantic City became a destination in the first place, instead voting blue based solely on politics.

Trump also outperformed Mitt Romney’s 2012 numbers here by a solid five points, and Clinton garnered about seven percent less than President Obama did. A depressed economy led to a disaffected electorate and, despite Trump’s role in the economic devastation here, a change to the status quo was considered more desirable for enough people to jump ship to make a dent, even if there was no risk of the area going red.

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An aerial view of Atlantic City

Make no mistake, Clinton is not exactly popular here either. Seen as an example of the type of crony politics that has dominated New Jersey politics for decades, enthusiasm was difficult to muster for the notoriously corrupt former First Lady and Secretary of State. And in a state where political corruption is taken for granted — their governor is Chris Christie after all — a change, even to a locally unpopular businessman, was seen as a positive by thousands of voters.

Atlantic City’s fortunes are still ultimately going to be tied to the future of TER, with or without the president at the helm. The Trump Taj Mahal’s reopening next year is expected to bring hundreds of jobs back to the area, and the revamping of the casino has already brought contractors work — at least those who are still willing to risk working for a Trump brand and getting stiffed on payment.

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