Trump Taj Mahal casino closes

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - BUSINESS - By Wayne Parry

AT­LANTIC CITY, N.J. >> Don­ald Trump built the Taj Mahal casino and once called it “the eighth won­der of the world.”

The Repub­li­can can­di­date in the race for the pres­i­dency — who took his At­lantic City casi­nos through bank­ruptcy four times — minced no words about Mon­day’s shut­down of the gam­bling hall.

“There’s no rea­son for this,” Trump told The As­so­ci­ated Press in a re­cent in­ter­view as his friend and fel­low bil­lion­aire Carl Ic­ahn pre­pared to close the casino.

Just be­fore 6 a.m. Mon­day, the Taj Mahal shut­tered its doors amid a strike by union mem­bers that lasted more than 100 days. It is the fifth At­lantic City casino to close since 2014.

Trump said both sides should have been able to work out a deal to keep the casino open. Lo­cal 54 of the Unite-HERE union went on strike July 1, af­ter it could not agree with Ic­ahn on a new con­tract to re­store health in­sur­ance and pen­sion ben­e­fits that were ter­mi­nated two years ago in bank­ruptcy court.

Ic­ahn de­cided on Aug. 3 to close the casino, say­ing it lacked a “path to prof­itabil­ity.” And now, Trump said, it’s too late. “Once it closes, it’s too ex­pen­sive to ever re­open it,” he said.

Yet that op­tion is ex­actly what the union’s pres­i­dent, Bob McDe­vitt, and many strik­ing work­ers sus­pect might hap­pen.

McDe­vitt said “there’s a strong pos­si­bil­ity” that Ic­ahn will keep the casino closed over the win­ter while con­duct­ing ren­o­va­tions and cap­i­tal im­prove­ments, then at­tempt to re­open it in the spring as a non-union fa­cil­ity. McDe­vitt said union job ac­tions in­clud­ing pick­et­ing and a cam­paign to get con­ven­tion groups to pa­tron­ize other At­lantic City casi­nos would im­me­di­ately re­sume if the Taj at­tempts to re­open with­out a union con­tract.

Ic­ahn and Taj Mahal man­age­ment did not re­spond to re­peated re­quests for com­ment on their plans.

In Au­gust, just days af­ter Ic­ahn an­nounced the clo­sure plans, work crews re­paired parts of the casino’s fa­cade and Board­walk en­try ways. The com­pany said that those re­pairs needed to be done re­gard­less of whether the casino is open or closed.

The clo­sure of the sprawl­ing Board­walk casino, with its soaring domes, minarets and tow­ers built to mimic the famed In­dian his­toric site, cost nearly 3,000 work­ers their jobs, bring­ing the to­tal jobs lost by At­lantic City casino clos­ings to 11,000 since 2014. At­lantic City now has seven casi­nos.

More than a dozen strik­ing work­ers in­ter­viewed Mon­day said they did the right thing by walk­ing out. Tina Con­dos, a cock­tail server at the casino since its open­ing, seemed tri­umphant de­spite the loss of her job.

“We stood up to a bil­lion­aire and told him we wouldn’t take it,” she said. “I hope it gives him pause be­fore he tries to come in and do this to any­one else. We feel like we suc­ceeded here.”

Rose Hall, yet an­other Day One em­ployee, cleaned rooms at the casino ho­tel.

“I gave most of my adult life to this place,” she said. “I had to pay for health care out of my own pocket, and if you don’t think that’s ex­pen­sive, you haven’t looked. I lost my fi­anceé to cancer just when med­i­cal in­sur­ance came off the ta­ble for us.”

She, too, has no re­grets about the de­ci­sion to go on strike to re­claim the same stan­dard of liv­ing that work­ers at the city’s other casi­nos en­joy.

“I’m an­gry about what’s hap­pened, but I’m not sad about what we did,” she said. “I’m at peace with my­self.”

McDe­vitt said union mem­bers had what he termed “their Popeye mo­ment: ‘That’s all I can stands; I can’t stands no more,’” he said. “For the first time in 30 years, work­ers stood up to Carl Ic­ahn and made him throw in the towel.”

Ic­ahn de­ter­mined the $350 mil­lion he had lost in the Taj Mahal was enough. It was then that he de­cided to close, fear­ing he would lose an ad­di­tional $100 mil­lion next year.

“To­day is a sad day for At­lantic City,” he said Mon­day. “Like many of the em­ploy­ees at the Taj Mahal, I wish things had turned out dif­fer­ently.”

MEL EVANS — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Mem­bers of Lo­cal 54 of the Unite-HERE union, Tina Con­dos, a cock­tail wait­ress at Trump Taj Mahal and Keith Fullmer, a bar­tender, shout early in the morn­ing out­side the clos­ing Trump Taj Mahal on Mon­day in At­lantic City, N.J.

WAYNE PARRY — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Strik­ing casino work­ers chant out­side the Trump Taj Mahal casino in At­lantic City, N.J., as it shuts down on Mon­day. The casino was opened by Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump but was most re­cently owned by fel­low bil­lion­aire Carl Ic­ahn.

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