ATLANTIC CITY - One of the best photo ops on the Trump's Heritage Gambling Tour this week came at the end. Many of the eight men and women grabbed their cellphones and shot the blacked-out - or boarded-up - traces of the signs on the shuttered Trump Plaza on the Boardwalk.
"I'm going to share this on Instagram," noted one woman, who would identify herself only as a Hillary Clinton supporter from Galloway Township.
Though not a Trump fan, she said she took the 90-minute tour - which told the story of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's 26-year involvement with Atlantic City - because she "thought it would be fun to learn more about local history."
Bob Blaskiewicz of Galloway agreed. "I didn't know Trump had so many ties to Atlantic City and how his time here played out in the region," he said. "I think anyone with an interest in Trump would find it eye-opening."
For tour operator Levi Fox, the Trump venture is a "just the facts"-type program - more history lesson than over-the-top political rhetoric for either Trump or his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, who made a campaign appearance outside Trump Plaza on July 6 to criticize Trump and his failed casinos.
Fox, 35, of Somers Point, said that he started Jersey Shore Tours as a sideline this year and that the company offers mostly walking tours spotlighting the beaches and boardwalks in Atlantic City and Ocean City.
With just weeks until the election and on the eve of the Trump Taj Mahal closure, Fox said, he came up with the idea for an "edu-tainment"-style tour involving Trump, who has not been professionally affiliated with the resort city for the last seven years.
"I see it as a unique form of urban redevelopment," said Fox, who studied innovations in other cities trying to recover from economic downturns.
"As a public historian, I looked at what earlier heritage tourism entrepreneurs tried in places like Lowell, Mass., to help revive the local economy, and figured a Trump-themed election-year tour could help bring jobs, visitors, and revenue to Atlantic City while also educating potential voters about his actions as a businessman," said Fox, who charges $16 for the tour.
He contends that he presents "the facts" and allows tour-takers to decide which side of the political aisle they may end up on at the conclusion.
"I'm certainly not telling anyone how they should vote," said Fox, an adjunct history professor at Stockton University in Galloway and Temple University in Philadelphia.
The tour begins on the Boardwalk outside Trump Taj Mahal - another of Trump's former gambling halls - which is set to close Monday and where nearly 1,000 union employees have been on strike since July 1.
The timeline presented by Fox with regard to Trump's involvement in Atlantic City isn't necessarily a tour de force of accomplishment. The Trump campaign did not return calls and emails for comment about the new tour, and it is unclear whether similar tours had been created in places where Clinton has lived or practiced law.
On his tour, Fox notes that Trump got his first casino license in New Jersey in 1982 and in 1985 opened Trump Castle, later named Trump Marina. In the meantime, Trump was hired by Harrah's Entertainment to build a casino in Atlantic City, which he subsequently bought in 1986 and named Trump Plaza.
Trump then found himself in a bidding war with TV game show host and producer Merv Griffin over the then-under-construction Taj Mahal - and in 1987 finally won the draw to finish building the casino hotel, which opened in 1990 at a cost of $1 billion, Fox said.
A year after its opening, under Trump's ownership, the Taj filed for bankruptcy in July 1991, and the following year, Trump Marina filed for bankruptcy, along with Trump Plaza. In 1995, Trump's casino holdings - including those outside Atlantic City - were rolled into a company whose stock became publicly traded.
In 1996, Trump opened Trump World's Fair casino on a property he had been operating on the Boardwalk as Trump Regency from 1989 to 1992. The public company, which owned his casinos, filed for bankruptcy twice, in 2004 and again in 2009. In 2011, the public company sold Trump Marina, and it was renamed the Golden Nugget. It 2014, the company closed Trump Plaza.
Trump's involvement with the company ended in 2009, shortly before it filed for another bankruptcy. In 2014, Trump sued to have his named removed from Trump Plaza and Trump Taj Mahal, saying the run-down conditions of the properties did not reflect his "personal brand."
"I had to rewrite part of the tour after the revelations came out over the weekend about Trump's taxes . . . but such is living history that is playing out right in front of us," Fox said.
Contact Jacqueline L. Urgo at 609-652-8382 or firstname.lastname@example.org @JacquelineUrgo