Carl Icahn on Monday shut down the Trump Taj Mahal casino, bringing a formal end to an era of lost opportunity. “Today is a sad day for Atlantic City,” Icahn said in a statement, referring to the 3, 000 workers who are losing their jobs. There is speculation that, after failing to reach a deal with the Unite Here union, Icahn plans to reopen the casino as a facility.
However, there is strong momentum in the New Jersey legislature to pass a bill that would make it financially difficult to close and reopen a casino, a Republican legislative source said. If the bill passes, the Taj might have coughed up its last slot machine payout. “[The bill] might pass in 30 days,” the source said.
Donald Trump in 1988 bought the rights to the casino that cost nearly $1 billion to build — and when it opened in 1990, the bombastic builder billed it as the Eighth Wonder of the World. The casino at the time was the largest ever built. In the 1990s, the Trump Taj Mahal generated the highest revenue of Atlantic City’s 12 casinos.
Trump would eventually own three of Atlantic City’s 12 casinos. His buildings, and several other seaside casinos, were highly leveraged. “Because of the leverage there never was that vision,” a gaming consultant said, explaining that Atlantic City did not work at becoming an East Coast destination offering much more than gaming.
“The owners tried to keep as many people inside their walls without improving the area,” the consultant said. Ultimately, more competition emerged and revenues fell sharply. The Taj’s parent in 2014 filed for bankruptcy, and Icahn bought the casino.
Now the city has only seven casinos left, down from the dozen during the Taj’s peak — and two are in Chapter 11. For the year through August, the Taj’s revenue was $116 million. In 2005 for the same period, it was three times more, $347 million.