The Trump Taj Mahal casino will shut down after Labor Day, the victim of the longest strike in Atlantic City's 38-year casino era.
The closure of the casino that was opened in 1990 by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump but now owned by his friend and fellow billionaire Carl Icahn will cost about 3,000 workers their jobs, and reduce the number of casinos in Atlantic City to seven.
Those job losses will be in addition to 8,000 workers who lost their jobs when four Atlantic City casinos closed in 2014.
And the bloodletting may not be over yet: Voters will decide in November whether to permit two new casinos in northern New Jersey just outside New York City, a development that would likely lead to additional casino closures in Atlantic City.
Tony Rodio, president of Tropicana Entertainment, which runs the Taj Mahal, said management decided Wednesday it can no longer operate a money-losing property in the midst of a strike. On Thursday, the walkout by Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union will reach its 35th day, eclipsing the 34-day walkout the union staged against seven casinos in 2004.
"Currently the Taj is losing multi-millions a month, and now with this strike, we see no path to profitability," Rodio said. "Our directors cannot just allow the Taj to continue burning through tens of millions of dollars when the union has singlehandedly blocked any path to profitability. Unfortunately we've reached the point where we will have to close the Taj."
The central issue in the strike is restoration of health insurance and pension benefits that previous owners got a bankruptcy court judge to approve in Oct. 2014. Icahn offered to restore health insurance to Taj Mahal workers, but at a level less than what workers at the city's other seven casinos receive.
The union rejected that offer.
"I would never have thought Carl Icahn was so one-dimensional," said union president Bob McDevitt. "The great deal-maker would rather burn the Trump Taj Mahal down just so he can control the ashes. 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.
An exact shutdown date has not yet been set. McDevitt said 60-day warning notices to employees are required, making early October the soonest the casino can be permitted to close.
Donald Trump once owned three Atlantic City casinos, but cut most ties with the city by 2009. Having lost ownership of the company to bondholders in a previous bankruptcy, Trump resigned as chairman of Trump Entertainment Resorts, retaining a 10 percent stake in return for the use of his name. That interest was wiped out in bankruptcy court when Icahn took over in March.