Donald Trump once made a bid to operate Sydney’s first ever casino but was knocked back by a NSW police report that alleged he had Mafia connections.
We’ll let that sink in for a minute.
In 1986, over a decade before The Star Sydney first opened its doors, Neville Wran’s NSW government approved the building and licencing of a casino on Sydney’s Darling Harbour.
Wran resigned later that year and was succeeded by fellow Labor politician Barrie Unsworth, who inherited the casino project and, on the basis of some “undesirable dealings,” promptly dumped the consortium of companies that been licensed by his predecessor
Enter one Donald J Trump who, in 1987, was riding high on dreams of an Atlantic City casino empire. He already owned Trump Plaza and Trump Castle in the New Jersey resort and was about to open the Trump Taj Mahal, a development he described, in typical Trump style, as the “eighth wonder of the world.”
He was similarly effusive about the prospects of the Darling Harbour project, although he modestly suggested it might only be “one” of the “most magnificent … most beautiful hotels anywhere in the world.”
But Unsworth’s government and the Police Board were unimpressed. According to the minutes taken in May 1987, at a Cabinet meeting to discuss the tender, the Police Board report suggested that the Trump bid, a joint enterprise with Queensland-based Kern Corporation, was “dangerous” due to the property developer’s alleged unseemly ties to organised crime.
“Atlantic City would be a dubious model for Sydney and, in our judgment, the Trump mafia connections should exclude the Kern/Trump consortium,” the report suggested.
The Australian newspaper obtained the minutes of this week, but the report itself remains classified. It is only alluded to during the cabinet meeting and therefore any evidence the Police Board may have had to support its claims remains unknown.
But it also threw up some questions about the Trump/Kern bid’s financial due diligence.
“The projected casino revenue estimates are not soundly based and the quantum of the potential overstatement is so material that the tender is not financially viable,” it said. “Also, the tender is not financially viable on the basis of expected returns to equity investors.”
Of a total four bidders, just one company passed the Police Board’s suitability investigation, Malaysia-based Genting.
But the Unsworth government, never quite fully confident with the project from the start, ultimately resolved to scrap the idea completely.