Bob McDevitt said he didn’t want to make any rash statements about the resignation of Trump Entertainment Resorts’ CEO, which was announced this week.
So McDevitt, who heads the main Atlantic City casino-workers union, gathered his thoughts for a few seconds, then issued his assessment of Robert Griffin’s departure: “Him leaving is like passing a kidney stone.”
UNITE-HERE Local 54 has been warring with Griffin for more than a year over Trump Entertainment’s elimination of health and pension benefits for workers at the company’s lone remaining casino, Trump Taj Mahal.
On Wednesday, the union president blamed Griffin for the shocking fall from grace that has played out in recent years at the Taj, which was among the premier casino-hotels on the planet when it opened in 1990.
Prior to becoming CEO in 2010, Griffin headed the Midwest casino operator MTR Gaming Group. He also ran Trump Entertainment during the most turbulent period in the history of the Atlantic City casino industry — a time when the entire industry was battered as competing casinos spread in the mid-Atlantic.
“He had a tough job,” Casino Reinvestment Development Authority Executive Director John Palmieri said Wednesday.
Palmieri said he views Griffin, who had a stint on the authority’s Board of Directors, as “a very decent guy who was always very direct. He always considered (CRDA) staff recommendations but would speak his mind and let me know where he stood,” Palmieri said.
At Trump Entertainment Resorts, “he was dealing with some tough issues.”
Griffin leaves a casino that is bankrupt, bleeding cash and the object of boycott calls from many of its unionized workers.
Taj struggled during the Griffin years, seeing annual revenue nearly halve, to $212 million, between 2010 and 2014.
The property reported a $50.7 million 2010 operating profit. It reported a $1.1 million 2014 operating loss, and a $9.6 million operating loss for the first half of 2015.
“I lay it at his doorstep,” McDevitt said. The company floundered because it spent virtually no money on renovations, lacked a cohesive player-development program to attract gamblers and slashed worker benefits to the bone, he said. “You can’t compete in this market by cutting.”
Griffin, 56, did not return a call for comment Wednesday. On Tuesday he said he was retiring and moving to the western United States.
This year, Stockton University abandoned plans to build its Island Campus at the former Showboat Casino Hotel — next door to Taj — blaming the debacle on Trump Entertainment for threatening to enforce a decades-old deed restriction, which Trump Entertainment said requires Showboat to remain a casino-hotel.
Griffin said Tuesday that he and his family were vilified as a result.
The fallout “ruined our social life,” he said. “Friends of ours blame us for all of this.”
He said it was an instance of “a local university just destroying your life.”
Trump Entertainment Resorts was already on the downswing when Griffin, a longtime casino-industry veteran, was appointed CEO by a group of corporate bondholders who bought the company in a bankruptcy sale.
Under Griffin, Trump Entertainment Resorts sold Trump Marina Hotel Casino for $38 million. The company closed Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in September 2014, the same month Trump Entertainment again went bankrupt.