ATLANTIC CITY - With the Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino's expected closing, Donald Trump, whose name is emblazoned on the casino and who once owned three of the gambling palaces here, said he can't help but feel bad for the resort he helped build.
In an interview Monday, Trump also predicted that an oversaturation of casinos would mean more closings in other places, including the Philadelphia area.
Trump endured multiple bankruptcies as head of Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc., and he and his name will always be linked with Atlantic City even if his share of the casinos is now only about 10 percent.
Trump Plaza's owners issued layoff notices to 1,600 employees Monday and said the casino would close Sept. 16. The closing would leave just one Trump-brand casino in Atlantic City, the Trump Taj Mahal. The former Trump Marina was sold in spring 2011 and became the Golden Nugget Atlantic City Casino Hotel under restaurant-chain owner Landry's Inc. of Houston.
"I'm very sad for Atlantic City. I spent many years there, as you know," Trump said from New York City less than two hours after Trump Plaza employees were issued layoff notices. "But I have not been involved for many years.
"I have nothing to do" with Trump Plaza's closing," he said. "Different people own it."
At the beginning of 2014, Atlantic City had 12 casinos. The Atlantic Club closed in mid-January, and two others - Revel and Showboat - have threatened to close, both by summer's end, if they do not find buyers. Showboat issued layoff notices about two weeks ago to its 2,100 workers.
"I feel badly, but Atlantic City is a different place now," Trump said. "What's happening in Atlantic City is happening all over the country. The United States is becoming one big casino.
"Atlantic City is getting clobbered. Seventy-five percent of the casinos in Atlantic City are bankrupt or going through bankruptcy. The other 25 percent are on respirator. This is going to happen in [the Philadelphia area] and Pennsylvania, too, you watch.
State governments think casino revenue is "the panacea, but it's not the panacea when everyone is doing it."
"The whole country is going this way. There are too many" casinos, Trump said.
Trump began building his casino empire here with Trump Plaza, on the 50-yard line of the Boardwalk, in May 1984. His second casino, the Trump Marina, opened in June 1985 in the Marina District.
Trump's crown jewel and flagship, the billion-dollar Taj Mahal, opened on the northern end of the Boardwalk on April 2, 1990, as the most expensive casino ever built in Atlantic City. The $1.1 billion Borgata would not open until 2003.
Trump and Atlantic City grew together. The mogul was at the height of his popularity after the Taj Mahal debuted and into the mid-1990s. His appearances at his three casinos were frequent and often advertised as attractions that drew thousands.
But the following years were less kind as the Trump casino company would go in and out of bankruptcy court in 1991, 1992, 2004, and 2009, and Trump's ownership stake and influence would diminish with each trip. Many blamed the cost of the Taj Mahal for its financial problems.
After emerging from its last bankruptcy in 2009, Trump owned just a tenth of his Atlantic City casinos as hedge funds took over.
Trump recalled the Atlantic City of the 1980s and 1990s, before competition from states surrounding it that now have casinos.
"I did a great job," Trump said. "In its heyday, there was no place like it. Now the times are different.
"I feel bad for Atlantic City. I worked with a lot of great people there, and I know so many of them are in a tough situation.
"It's very sad, because I love Atlantic City."