In his bid for president, Republican nominee Donald Trump regularly boasts about his success constructing and operating casinos in Atlantic City.
But a South Jersey public historian is telling what he says is an unvarnished version of Trump’s legacy in A.C.
And he’s doing it from right outside the doors of Trump’s former properties.
“Welcome to Trump’s Gambling Heritage Tour,” exclaimed Levi Fox, president of Jersey Shore Tours, in front of the Trump Taj Mahal this week. “We are trying to piggyback off the national news and offer people a little bit of an education about both Atlantic City and Mr. Trump’s career here.”
Fox, who has a Temple University doctorate in history, grew up in Somers Point and realized over the past few weeks that people might be interested in hearing about Trump’s actual business dealings in Atlantic City on a walking tour that stopped at several of his former casinos.
“I might have to change the name if he sues me,” Fox said, “but the publicity would probably be worth it.”
And on Tuesday, the vestiges of Trump were there.
Workers were striking outside the Trump Taj Mahal, which Trump once called the Eighth Wonder of the World, in protest of their working conditions and an overdue contract.
The casino, now owned by Trump’s friend and fellow billionaire Carl Icahn, is slated to close its doors permanently on Monday as a result of the labor dispute.
The walking tour also occurred just hours after the New York Times reported that Trump claimed a $916 million loss on his 1995 tax return, which the newspaper said would have allowed him to avoid paying income tax for 18 years.
Those losses occurred at a time when the overall gambling market in Atlantic City was healthier, too; from 1990 to 1995, about half of 12 casinos made a profit. But all of Trump’s three casinos lost money over that period, according to records from the Casino Control Commission.
“We’re even now finding out more about Mr. Trump’s finances, his longstanding connections to Atlantic City, how he moved — one could say manipulated — his money,” said Fox.
The tour moved south from the Taj Mahal, making several stops along the Boardwalk so Fox could share stories of Atlantic City historical oddities, and ended at the shuttered Trump Plaza, which closed in 2014.
Although Fox addressed some of the Trump tales making national headlines, he also discussed the local effects of Trump’s casino empire, narratives sometimes lost among the larger stories about the real estate mogul.
Take, for example, the dozens if not hundreds of small-business contractors Trump reportedly stiffed for their work at his properties.
“It’s not even six degrees of separation from the reality of this. It’s two or three degrees. We’re talking a friend of a friend,” said Fox. “We’re talking ripple effects going on throughout the community extending to this day.”
On the tour was Emily VanDuyne, who was raised in Ventnor and “grew up watching all of this happen. I can still sing the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino song from the commercial that played in the ’80s.”
VanDuyne, who teaches at Stockton University with Fox, said visitors would benefit from the tour, because it tells the Trump story that many locals already know but some outsiders don’t.
“He’s like a profiteer,” she said. “He gains personally and then he decimates areas. And this is an area that has been decimated by him.”
Fox is offering the Trump walking tours through Election Day for $16 per person.