Trump Taj Mahal Closes on Sunday While Union Members Continue to Protest
The Trump Taj Mahal closes its doors on Sunday, October 9. The final bets are taking place as the Atlantic City casino ceases operations at 5:59 am on Monday morning, according to the Taj Mahal’s website.
On Sunday afternoon, less than 20 of the original 100+ gaming tables appeared to be in operation at the Trump Taj Mahal. In its waning hours, the Taj was operating with a skeleton crew. One-thousand workers of the 3000-person strong workforce at the Boardwalk casino are members of the Local 54 of UNITE-Here union, which remain on strike. Diana Hussein, the spokesperson for the Local 54, said that the workers plan to remain on strike until the casino closes its doors on Sunday.
Few Gamblers Remain This Weekend
Local media describes the security guards at the casino outnumbering the gamblers on the gaming floor on the casino’s last day. Still, guests wandered through the casino’s floor, taking a last look at one of Atlantic City’s most famous and storied casinos. The bars and restaurants inside already were shut down.
A dispute persists about the reason for the casino’s closure. The Local 54 went on strike on July 1, citing their desire to reclaim health benefits, pension benefits, and unpaid vacation time. They went on strike only days after the Local 54 negotiated contracts with three other Atlantic City casinos. Even stranger, one of those casinos was Tropicana, which is owned by the same man who owns the Trump Taj Mahal.
Carl Icahn’s Leadership
That man is Carl Icahn, the New York City activist investor. Carl Icahn is a billionaire who has bought and sold properties in dozens of industries over the past several decades. His corporate takeovers and subsequent selloffs earned him the title “corporate raider” back in the 1980’s.
When Trump Entertainment Resorts began to falter in the past few years, Carl Icahn invested $292 million in Trump Taj Mahal, making him the biggest creditor. Icahn had done the same for Tropicana in 2010; by 2015, Tropicana had undergone a positive transformation and was profitable.
That is what Carl Icahn promised to do with Trump Taj Mahal when he was declared the controlling interest by a bankrutpcy judge in 2015. That same judge awarded Trump Taj Mahal special consideration in October 2014, when he stripped the casino’s workers of their health and pension benefits. The union’s members were outraged at the time by the legal decision, and had struggled ever since to reverse that decision.
Carl Icahn inherited that decision, but he defended his right to keep the strip out health and pension benefits that the workers held him accountable. In the months leading up to the strike, both sides sought public recognition that they were on the correct side of the debate.
Local 54 Strike
As the strike dragged into August 2016, Carl Icahn announced he would close the casino in October. He blamed the Local 54’s leader, Bob McDevitt. So did Tony Rodio, the CEO of Tropicana, when he said, “With this strike, we see no path to profitability.”
Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian said in a statement that his “thoughts and prayers are with the hard working men and women who will be losing their jobs.”
Don Guardian Speaks about the Lost Jobs
Don Guardian is not the only politician thinking about the workers of the Trump Taj Mahal. State lawmakers have proposed legislation targeting the Trump Taj Mahal and, especially, Carl Icahn. Those leaders are concerned that the casino mogul wants to close the casino for a time, only to reopen under another name later, in a move which might allow him to rehire a staff without the pesky union contract.
To circumvent that possibility, State Senate President Stephen Sweeney has introduced a bill which would prevent anyone from gaining licensing for a casino if they have closed a casino in the state in the past 5 years. The legislation would be retroactive to January 1, 2016.
In other words, if Carl Icahn closes Trump Taj Mahal, he will not be able to gain another gaming license in the city for 5 years. Any plan he might have to reopen Trump Taj Mahal under some other name would be put on mothballs for 5 years.
About Trump Taj Mahal
Trump Taj Mahal was opened in 1990 by Donald Trump, amidst great fanfare. The Taj was one of the most prestigious casinos in the United States in the 1990’s, as it hosted first-tier concerts and championship boxing matches. But the Trump Taj Mahal also played a hand in Donald Trump’s bankruptcies in the mid-1990s, as well as the $916 million in losses the New York Times said Trump claimed on his IRS filings in 1995.
Eventually, the banks saved Donald Trump and Trump Taj Mahal. The Donald remained in control of the casino until 2009, when the Global Recession forced another bankruptcy and a takeover by the board of directors. The board eventually ceded control to Carl Icahn.
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