The President of the United States is long gone from the Atlantic City casino industry, but paperwork involving his brand was still playing out as recently as this month.
According to an order posted to the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement’s website, Tropicana Atlantic City has been granted approval to be removed as records administrator for the former Trump Plaza and Trump Taj Mahal Hotel Casinos. The former has been closed since 2014 and recently staved off a demolition, while the latter has been Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City since June after closing in late 2016 amid a labor dispute.
Donald Trump, who opened the Taj in 1990 and the Plaza in 1984, once famously claimed he was “plus $10 billion” from his tenure as casino mogul. It was a dubious claim, even at the time, but there are likely records out there that would prove or disprove the claim — and they were the subject of a recent regulatory action.
The Garden State means business
New Jersey is home to the America’s second-oldest casino gambling market, and so regulators have had time to craft some of the most thorough gambling regulations in the world.
According to New Jersey regulations, a casino record is anything “pertaining to, prepared in, or generated by the operation of a casino,” including accounting records, ledgers, subsidiary records, computer-generated data, internal audit records, “correspondence” and “personal records.” However, not all records have the same retention requirements.
In March 2017, Division Director David Rebuck authorized the surrender of the casino license held by the Taj and required the casino to submit documentation of a contract with an information management firm “for the storage of hard copy and electronic or digital records related to Plaza and Taj.” The following month, Tropicana told regulators that it had reached an agreement to serve as the records administrator and pay for the costs. At the time, all three casinos were under the control of billionaire and Trump ally Carl Icahn.
In April of this year, it was announced that Nevada-based Eldorado Resorts would acquire Tropicana Entertainment from Icahn in a deal worth $1.85 billion. The deal also involved Gaming and Leisure Properties (GLP Capital), which acquired the real estate holdings. The deal closed earlier this month.
Thanks to the deal, Tropicana in August asked the Division to relieve it of the responsibility of records administrator for the two casinos opened by Trump. In granting approval of the request, Tropicana and two entities formerly bearing the Trump brand assured regulators that “all business records for Plaza and Taj are housed at secure facilities.”
“Trop AC, Plaza, and Taj propose that Plaza and Taj will manage their own records retention and represents that Plaza and Taj will notify the Division in advance of any destruction of records,” said the Division’s order. Still, Tropicana “submitted proof” that the cost of records storage has been pre-paid in full through October 2021.
The Division said at the end of the order that “staff will be guaranteed access” to the Plaza and Taj records stored with the Boston-based information management firm Iron Mountain Inc.
A new chapter has started for the casino that opened its doors to gamblers way back in 1981. The sale to Eldorado and GLP comes at a pivotal time for the property in the emergent New Jersey sports betting market. The stakes are high for the former majority-owned subsidiary of Icahn Enterprises. Icahn acquired Tropicana through bankruptcy about a decade ago.
Through September, Tropicana won $262.8 million off gamblers, good for second among the Garden States’s nine brick-and-mortar casinos. However, the winnings were down 2.8 percent year-over-year. The casino’s internet gambling operations generated $30.7 million through the first nine months of 2018, down 5.2 percent.
In early September, the casino announced a sports betting partnership with William Hill, but the deal made it one of the last New Jersey gambling facilities to move into the space. According to Tropicana’s website, sports betting is up and running. The casino was not listed in September’s sports betting revenue report.