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Trump Taj Mahal announces it will close

Trump Taj Mahal announces it will close

Taj Mahal

"I like thinking big" quote and Donald Trump photo inside the Taj Mahal Wednesday.

ATLANTIC CITY — The owners of Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort said Wednesday that the casino will close after Labor Day weekend, blaming striking Unite Here Local 54 workers for preventing a “path to profitability.”

In justifying the decision to close, Tony Rodio, president and CEO of Tropicana Entertainment, said the Taj is losing millions of dollars a month and that the owners have “fiduciary duties to their shareholders.”

The company intends to send state-required mass layoff notices before the weekend, Rodio said in a statement.

The casino employed more than 2,100 people at the end of 2015, including about 1,000 Local 54 members, according to the documents filed the with state Division of Gaming Enforcement.

Local 54 President Bob McDevitt accused Taj owner Carl Icahn of taking the 34-day strike personally.

“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,” McDevitt said in a statement. “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.”

The Taj Mahal would be the city’s fifth casino to close since 2014.

Two years ago, the city’s casino industry was decimated by the closings of Showboat Casino Hotel on Aug. 31, Revel on Sept. 2 and Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino on Sept. 16. The Atlantic Club Casino Hotel closed earlier that year, taking with it 1,600 jobs.

When the dust settled, about 8,000 employees had lost jobs.

About 1,000 cooks, housekeepers, bellmen, bartenders, cocktail servers and other service workers at Taj Mahal have been on strike since July 1. The strike at the casino-hotel follows union agreements with Tropicana Atlantic City and Caesars Entertainment, which owns Caesars Atlantic City, Harrah’s Resort and Bally’s Atlantic City.

“It’s a shame. I see both sides, really,” said Dan Worman, 47, of Egg Harbor Township, as he played slots Wednesday afternoon inside the Taj. “Atlantic City is not as strong of a market as it used to be. And I do believe in Icahn and Tony Rodio, that if they would have turned it around, they would have gave (the workers) their money. It’s just right now, it’s just bad timing.”

When it opened on April 2, 1990, the Taj Mahal, formerly owned by Donald J. Trump, had 120,000 square feet of gaming space and claimed to be the world’s largest casino. The casino also billed itself as the “eighth wonder of the world.”

Despite the announcement of the potential closing, striking workers were still out on the Boardwalk alerting visitors to their plight. At one point, the striking workers chanted: “If we don’t get it (a new contract), shut it down.”

“Carl Icahn said he was going to invest in the building, invest in the workers and get the Taj Mahal going to the days of what it used to be,” said Pete Battaglini, a 60-year-old bellman at the casino. “Now today he announced he is going to close it. I feel that it’s just that Wall Street mentality, ‘We will take what we can get and then move on.’”

Icahn became the owner of the Taj Mahal after taking the casino’s mounting debt. At one point, he promised to pour $100 million into the casino to renovate it, but he backed off that pledge until the question of North Jersey casinos was settled. Last October, a federal judge agreed that as part of the casino’s bankruptcy process, the union could stop making health care and pension payments to workers.

“We’ve heard all over Atlantic City, and especially this part of Atlantic City, about people losing their jobs, and I am surprised that he would do this,” Dianna Siderio, 57, of Levittown, Pennsylvania, said as she walked out of the Taj.

Contact: 609-272-7046

Twitter @ACPressHuba

Contact: 609-272-7215

Twitter @_Hetrick

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