Monday, 14 November 2016

1986: Donald Trump and Sydney's proposed casino

Darling Park could have been home to Donald Trump's Hotel and Casino Resort. Photo taken by the Author.
Donald Trump has been elected in the past week as the President of the United States, succeeding Barack Obama.

And it just happened in this past week, I came across a 1990 clipping from The Daily Telegraph where the man himself revealed plans to build one of his famous casino resorts here in Sydney, and that led me to finding out a little more his plans.

His unsuccessful quest to build a casino in Sydney dates back to 1986 when Barrie Unsworth was the Premier of NSW.

The proposed location was not where The Star casino is located. It was planned for Darling Harbour on the current site of the Darling Park office complex and Cockle Bay Wharf.

On November 10 1986, Trump's intentions to seek a casino licence were reported in The Sydney Morning Herald. 

The hotel and casino complex would be designed by architect Harry Seidler, who would be flown to view his casino's in Atlantic City, New Jersey to guide him in creating the design.

Trump's position was:

Sydney's a wonderful city. and if properly done, this could be a tremendous success for Sydney and everyone involved.  It's a great concept, if it's well executed.

He did face competition with up to a fifteen tenders involved, and was shortlisted as one of five tenders in December 1986. In May 1987, Trump had been eliminated with Genting and Civil & Civic the only contractor remaining. They also would eventually be dropped.

Like the scruitny with James Packer & Crown Resorts in terms of police and government checks with his project at Barangaroo, Trump appeared to try to advert these checks as reported by The Sydney Morning Herald in May 1987. Think about his reluctance to give details as part of his presidential campaign relating to his business dealings.

Source: McLean, P. 1990. "Trump bid on cards for casino". The Daily Telegraph, January 10, 7. 

Trump continued his campaign for several years and it bubbled back to the surface in 1990. He told The Sun Herald on April 22, he said Sydney would have one of the world's greatest casino's. Another interesting comparison with James Packer who wants Sydney to have the world's greatest casino. He did feel that the State Government wasn't interested.

We probably lost an opportunity from the same ineptness from our politicans that Trump seems to believe is plaguing politicians in his home country. If you look at the history of his "empire" of three casinos, they were doomed to fail. His third casino Trump Taj Mahal opened in 1990 in  Atlantic City. Upon opening it was the world's biggest casino. Struggling to pay debts, the casinos were floated on the American Stock Market as Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts in June 1995.

Financial problems continued to plague the Casino's with Trump in charge and the company declared bankruptcy in 2004. It is believed that Trump moved away from the company in 2006 and still battled with threats of bankruptcy for the next decade. It was not helped by the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-09

Two of his Atlantic City casino's no longer exist Trump Plaza closed in 2014, Trump Taj Mahal closed this year. However his third casino in Atlantic City - Trump Marina was sold and is now a second incarnation of the Golden Nugget Atlantic City Brand.

So if Sydney did have a Trump Hotel & Casino, it would still be around.

It's obvious that the State Government would not want a casino to close. It might have meant a change in management at worst to keep it going.

Sydney is a major international city and a popular tourist destination for international tourists. Atlantic City has had competition from Las Vegas and closer to home in the United States, the rise of gambling in New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland and preference for air travel.

As for location, it would have been located as mentioned on the current site of the Darling Park complex and Cockle Bay Wharf.

But even if Trump Sydney was turning over a profit, it may have had to subsidise the operations in Atlantic City and service the debt. It may have not even been enough to save them.

Had Trump been put in a position to sell, it would probably have have been too late for Crown to buy the casino with preparations for his Barangaroo Casino Resort well advanced in 2014.

Then again its only predictions.