Trump Taj Mahal In Alantic City To Close Due To Loss Of Millions Of Dollars | KERA News

Trump Taj Mahal In Alantic City To Close Due To Loss Of Millions Of Dollars

Oct 8, 2016
Originally published on October 8, 2016 11:27 pm
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Donald Trump doesn't run casinos in Atlantic City anymore, but one that still bears his name is expected to shut down Monday morning. The Trump Taj Mahal is losing millions of dollars a month, and the new owner, Carl Icahn, says that and a labor strike force him to close the doors. NPR's Jeff Brady reports.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: When the Trump Taj Mahal opened in 1990, it was a big deal on some TV shows.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Donald Trump gave Michael Jackson a personal tour of his $1.2 billion extravaganza.

BRADY: The Donald, as he was called, was all over TV, talking up his newest venture, which he billed as the biggest, most expensive casino ever.

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DONALD TRUMP: We had people playing so hard and so fast, and we had - couldn't have - you couldn't count the money.

BRADY: It looked like Donald Trump was on top of the world, but really he was sitting on a huge pile of debt.

ROGER GROS: He was really overextended by that point. Even before the property opened, it was pretty much doomed.

BRADY: Roger Gros is the publisher of Global Gaming Business magazine. He says for the Taj Mahal to succeed, gamblers would have had to lose a million dollars a day there, and that was unheard of in Atlantic City at the time. Trump filed a prepackaged bankruptcy the next year, giving up half his ownership stake.

GROS: And then three bankruptcies later, he had completely exhausted all of his equity and really just had his name on the side of the building, had no responsibility for running it.

BRADY: That's when others took over managing the Taj Mahal. They didn't fare much better.

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BRADY: Walking through the casino this week, the multimillion-dollar chandelier and gold escalators were still there, but the place looked sad. Cleaning crews aren't keeping up with the dust anymore, the wallpaper is peeling, and there were just a few gamblers. Billionaire investor Carl Icahn says he lost $100 million over the past year and a half trying to save the Taj Mahal. Now he's giving up.

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BRADY: Competition from new casinos elsewhere in the mid-Atlantic region is one reason. Another is outside.

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UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Taj Mahal is on strike all day, all night. Taj Mahal is on strike.

BRADY: Even as the casino was scheduled to shut down, workers in red sweatshirts marched outside. They're still fighting with Icahn over health care and other benefits. Each side blames the other for the impasse. At this point, workers know they won't win, but they want to send a message that they didn't back down, either. Cocktail server Christina Condos says she started working here 26 years ago when the Taj Mahal opened.

CHRISTINA CONDOS: When I first started out, this casino - it enabled us to raise our children on, like, a waitress salary. We had health care benefits.

BRADY: Condos says workers have forgone raises and given up benefits over the years to try and help save the casino. She lost her house to foreclosure in 2014 and says she can't sacrifice anymore. That's why she's still out here on the picket line with her colleagues.

CONDOS: You know, it's the end. Sorry. I haven't cried yet, so - a hundred and one days it'll be on the 10th. And, you know, we've been with these people a long time. They're like our family - our extended family. They're good people - hard workers.

BRADY: On Monday morning, just before 6 a.m., they'll officially lose their jobs as the Trump Taj Mahal shuts down. Jeff Brady, NPR News.

SIMON: And the second presidential debate is tomorrow night. Our colleague and friend Robert Siegel will anchor live coverage that airs on many NPR stations. It will begin at 9 p.m. Eastern, and we will also have live fact-checking available on our website at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.