VOICES: Donald Trump played Monopoly in Atlantic City, but could never own Boardwalk, columnist says

This guest column by community contributor Steven Conn appeared on the Ideas and Voices page Thursday, Oct. 8 with responses from Facebook users about reports that president Donald Trump paid $750 in taxes in 2016 and 2017.

Credit: Bruno Vincent/Getty Images, File

Credit: Bruno Vincent/Getty Images, File

In 1935 ― the midst of the Great Depression ― Parker Bros. released the board game Monopoly. Since then, millions have pretended to be real estate moguls.

Surely you’ve played Monopoly, but maybe you did not know the game was designed by a Philadelphian and the real estate you buy is located in Atlantic City, N.J. Back then, Atlantic City was probably the most famous, well-loved family resort town in the country.

Nowadays, the folks in Atlantic City are laughing pretty hard. A New York Times article alleging Donald Trump paid a whopping $750 in Federal taxes in 2016 and 2017 likely came as no surprise to them. They have seen this act before.

By the 1970s Atlantic City’s luster had faded and the glamour was gone. New Jersey legalized casino gambling as a way of revitalizing the city, and then Donald Trump waltzed into town. He was a brash, flashy New York real estate mogul who promised to make Atlantic City great again.

President Donald Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes the year he ran for president and in his first year in the White House, according to a report in The New York Times.

Posted by Dayton Daily News on Sunday, September 27, 2020

Ultimately he built three casinos along the fabled Boardwalk, each gaudier than the last. They all achieved the remarkable feat of being expensive to build and cheap and tacky once they were finished.

Growing up in Philadelphia, I had a front row seat for the Trump show in Atlantic City. It was obvious to me that the whole enterprise was sketchy. Trump used junk bonds – all the rage in the 1980s before they exploded and sent people to jail – to finance his casino empire. And when he couldn’t pay the nut on one of his properties he gutted the others. He defaulted on his debts, and once he and his father concocted a scheme to pay off debts with casino chips.

Worse than that, there were allegations that Trump stiffed a number of the small local contractors and service providers he hired knowing they couldn’t fight back. This was all reported in the local news. I watched it all as it happened. “So when he left Atlantic City,” Steven Perskie, New Jersey’s top casino regulator told the Times as part of a 2016 article, “it wasn’t ‘Sorry to see you go,’ it was ‘How fast can you get the hell out of here?’”

In a bit cosmic irony, Trump’s name came down off his prized Taj Mahal casino four years ago during the 2016 campaign. And in August this year, demolition began on the shell of the Trump Plaza casino.

So $750 in federal taxes ― what it costs if you land on Tennessee Ave. with four houses on it ― didn’t surprise the folks on the Boardwalk. As Bryant Simon, an historian who has written a book about Atlantic City summed it up in a recent “Philadelphia Inquirer,” “Trump was never honest about full disclosure, never honest about the risks involved in his businesses, and never honest about assets behind him.”

Trump gave himself the Secret Service nickname “Mogul,” but he never actually owned the Boardwalk. It seems the hotels he put on that property were all owned by his creditors. And given what was just reported about his shady and shabby finances it isn’t clear he could even afford a stay on Baltic Ave.

Steven Conn, W.E. Smith Professor of History at Miami University, is a regular community contributor. Community contributors are people who frequently submit fact-based guest opinion columns.

Responses on our Facebook page to reports Donald Trump only paid $750 in US income taxes in 2016 and 2017.

“Can Donald Trump teach me this power? This would be wonderful." - Auston Hensley

“There is a reason he went back on his campaign promise to share this information. This man is a crook. "- Minnita Daniel-Cox

"He also donated his income for being the President of the United States. " - Daniel Gaskill

“If any of us did that we'd be in jail." - Christina Casey

“Stormy Daniels had to pay more taxes in her hush money."- Eric Gagliano

“Too bad Biden helped write the tax codes. Liberals only get mad when someone else takes advantage of the laws they wrote." - Billy Hankins

"His supporters don't care. They'll say anything to explain it away. - Luke Gorman

“Who cares. Joe Biden has became a multi-millionaire working in Washington D.C. the last 47 years is even more concerning to me." - Daryl Dover

“Who cares. About anyone's tax returns. This is smoke and mirrors." - Marchel Klawonn

About the Author