Atlantic City’s Trump Taj Mahal Casino to Close in September
Another iconic Atlantic City landmark will soon be empty. On Wednesday, Tony Rodio, President and Chief Executive Officer of Tropicana Entertainment announced that the Trump Taj Mahal casino will shut down for good following Labor Day Weekend, which is just a month away.
The unfortunate end of the struggling casino comes after a month-long strike by the Unite Here Local 54, in which more than one thousand workers, including cooks, housekeepers, bellmen, and bartenders, protested the loss of health care and pension benefits that were stripped from workers in Trump Entertainment Resorts’ bankruptcy proceedings back in late 2014. Trump Entertainment, which is owned by billionaire investor Carl Icahn’s Icahn Enterprises, owns the Trump Taj Mahal. Tropicana Entertainment is the company that operates the Taj.
Icahn was the largest debtholder of Trump Enterprises prior to its bankruptcy proceedings and ended up taking over the company when it exited bankruptcy in February 2016. He had said he was going to inject $100 million into the casino to keep it running in exchange for concessions from the union and $175 million in tax breaks from New Jersey and Atlantic City. He got the former, but not the latter. He still might have invested the $100 million to renovate the Taj, but when plans were drawn up in the state legislature to possibly permit the erection of two casinos in northern New Jersey, Icahn balked.
Bob McDevitt, President of Unite Here Local 54, is, to put it gently, pissed that Icahn has, in his opinion, let this happen. On the union’s website, he pulled no punches in an essay that, were it not for the inclusion of Icahn’s name, may have sounded like he was talking about the casino’s namesake:
How petty. I would never have thought Carl Icahn was so one-dimensional. The great deal-maker would rather burn the Trump Taj Mahal down just so he can control the ashes. For a few million bucks he could have had labor peace and a content workforce, but instead he’d rather slam the door shut on these long-term workers just to punish them and attempt to break their strike. There was no element of trying to reach an agreement here on Icahn’s part; it was always “my way or the highway” from the beginning with Icahn. It is the epitome of the playground bully, who picks up his ball and announces he is going home because nobody else would do it his way. It is truly a shame that such an unscrupulous person has control of billions of dollars.
These workers are exercising their fundamentally American right to stand up for themselves in the face of injustice. Carl Icahn took it personally. This is clearly not a business decision – a few million dollars is a drop in the bucket compared to the money he publicly promised he would put into the Trump Taj Mahal. It’s a classic take-the-money-and-run: Icahn takes hundreds of millions of dollars out of Atlantic City and then announces he is closing up shop. This titan of Wall Street is utterly incapable of making a decision unless it is mean-spirited and benefitting him alone, and he is plagued with indecisiveness when things don’t go his way.
In a statement, Tropicana Entertainment President and CEO Tony Rodio said, “Currently the Taj is losing multi-millions a month, and now with this strike we see no path to profitability. Unfortunately, we’ve reached the point where we have will to have to close the Taj after Labor Day weekend and intend to send WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) notices to before this weekend.”
The Trump Taj Mahal, for all its cheesy tackiness, had for a couple decades been the epicenter of brick and mortar poker on the east coast. Well before the poker boom and rise of No-Limit Hold’em as the poker game, the Taj was the home to hundreds of east coast regulars and was known for churning out some of the best Stud players in the world. It was the home venue for the United States Poker Championship, one of the premier live poker tournaments outside of the World Series of Poker from the mid-1990’s to the mid-aughts.
Trump Entertainment Resorts almost closed the Trump Taj Mahal in December 2014, but concession by the union and $20 million in financing from Carl Icahn gave the casino a reprieve before the company exited bankruptcy a couple months later.
Had the Taj closed in 2014, it would have been the capper on a terrible year for Atlantic City, which, because of an economic downturn plus growing competition from casinos in other states, could no longer support a dozen casinos. In January 2014, the Atlantic Club casino closed. In late August, the Showboat closed, followed shortly by Revel in early September. In mid-September, the Trump Plaza shuttered its windows. While the Trump Taj Mahal did not become the fifth Atlantic City casino to close in 2014, it did seem like today’s news was inevitable.
Cover image credit: Christian Hellmann via Flickr