Revenue report due as Atlantic City casinos close

This Wednesday July 23, 2014 photograph shows casinos along the Atlantic City, N.J. boardwalk, from left, the Trump Taj Mahal Casino, with its Chairman Tower, the Showboat Casino Hotel, and the Revel Casino Hotel. The Revel Casino Hotel will close its doors on Sept. 10, 2014 after failing to find a buyer in bankruptcy court, company officials announced Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Mel Evans

Trump Taj Mahal closed one of its hotel towers Monday, the same day state regulators released a tentative plan to close the entire Boardwalk property Dec. 12.

In the plan, dated Nov. 26, the casino told regulators that the property’s Chairman’s Tower hotel section would close Monday.

Officials with Trump Entertainment Resorts, the casino’s bankrupt parent, did not return calls for comment.

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But late Monday afternoon, employees at the tower told a reporter that that section was closed.

The state Division of Gaming Enforcement could not confirm that the tower was closed. Spokeswoman Kerry Langan said in a statement that the casino’s closure plan “can be amended or retracted if circumstances change.” The plan also says the casino would stop issuing credit after Dec. 1.

Meanwhile, thousands of workers await word on whether Taj’s main labor union will accept lender Carl Icahn’s last-ditch offer to save the casino-hotel.

About 2,700 workers are waiting to find out if Local 54 of UNITE-HERE will accept a proposal by Icahn to keep the property from becoming the fifth casino-hotel to close this year in Atlantic City, which began 2014 with 12.

Local 54 President Bob McDevitt declined to comment Monday.

Icahn, who controls about $286 million in debt secured by Taj and its shuttered sister, Trump Plaza, says he will invest heavily in Trump Entertainment Resorts and convert debt to equity if the union drops a court appeal over worker benefits.

Considered Taj’s de facto owner, Icahn has been warring with Local 54 over an attempt to swap union pensions with 401(k) plans and end payments to a union health fund.

In October U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross approved those changes, which Trump Entertainment said were part of a plan to save $14.6 million annually.

Local 54 appealed the decision, saying the ruling gutted benefits for about 1,100 housekeepers, servers and other low-paid union workers. The union took to the Boardwalk to protest Icahn, who owns Tropicana, as a union-buster bent on destroying the benefits that make casino jobs worth working.

In an open letter to McDevitt last week, Icahn said he would agree to an arrangement that restores health benefits for at least two years and creates a new pension plan. But only “if you ... withdraw the appeal and give us labor peace.”

Signs have already been placed at Taj informing customers that the property is scheduled to close at 5:59 a.m. Dec. 12.

A court hearing is slated for Thursday for Gross to consider whether Trump Entertainment should begin formally pursuing liquidation.

The casino floor was almost empty Monday evening, with perhaps a dozen gamblers sitting at slot machines on a section of floor as big as a football field. Out of 30 blackjack tables in one area, only three had players sitting at them.

“I was booked here for Christmas,” said Willie Cash, of Mount Vernon, New York, as he played a slot machine with no other gamblers in sight. “It doesn’t look like that is going to happen.”

Cash said his previous favorite casino was Revel. That property closed in September.

“Every time I get comfortable in a place, it goes bye bye,” Cash said.

Casino revenue in Atlantic City is about half its 2006 peak of $5.2 billion, a symptom of increased competition as casinos spread in nearby states.

Staff Writer Michelle Brunetti Post contributed to this report.

Contact Reuben Kramer:

609-272-7239

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