Taj Closing folo

The Trump Taj Mahal announced Wednesday that they will close in a month, which will make it the third casino to close on the north end of the Atlantic City Boardwalk. Thursday, August 4, 2016. (Viviana Pernot/ Staff Photographer)

ATLANTIC CITY — The South Inlet section of the Boardwalk was poised to become the heart of the resort’s economy five years ago.

The $2.4 billion Revel Casino Hotel was billed as a “game changer” for the city by local and state officials, while both Showboat and Trump Taj Mahal — despite declining revenues — were still players in the gaming industry.

Now, that section of the Boardwalk is on life support after casino closings at Showboat and Revel left it mostly dark in 2014. And it may get darker with the announced closing of the Taj Mahal apparently in October.

The Showboat has since reopened as a hotel without a casino, leaving the Boardwalk with no casino north of Resorts Casino Hotel if the Taj Mahal closes.

“It’s ironic,” Mayor Don Guardian said. “Everyone said that it was going to become the center of the city.”

Showboat owner Bart Blatstein and Revel owner Glenn Straub “almost have to rise up together to create a little density on that end of the Boardwalk,” said Bryant Simon, a professor of history at Temple University and the author of “Boardwalk of Dreams: Atlantic City and the Fate of Urban America.”

“Emptiness is not why we love cities,” he said.

The proposed closing of the Taj could further isolate that section of the Boardwalk from the rest of the resort, he said.

Blatstein still has high hopes for the area and Showboat.

“The Taj, like Revel, are both great and grand properties. It’ll settle down and become bigger and better. It’s the best end of town,” Blatstein said. “I look long-term. My plans are long-term.”

The announced closing of Taj Mahal came shortly after one of Atlantic City’s biggest successes in the past two years — the reopening of Showboat in July.

Straub is still in the process of trying to get Revel reopened.

“It’s two steps forward, three steps backwards,” said Richard Perniciaro, director of the Center for Regional and Business Research at Atlantic Cape Community College.

Perniciaro said the proposed closing of the Taj combined with the pending referendum on casinos in North Jersey in November could discourage residential and commercial investment in the resort.

“I already have somebody I know who’s looking for a house and said, ‘I might as well wait until after November — housing prices may go down again.’ This just adds to the amount of risk, and it makes people hesitant to do anything.”

Taj Mahal’s planned closing comes at a time when millions of dollars are being poured into that portion of the Boardwalk, including by Philadelphia-based Blatstein and Florida real estate mogul Straub.

In addition to the private investment in the area, the state is investing nearly $40 million to make beach and Boardwalk improvements.

“It’s a concern,” said Council President Mary Small Sr. “We have the Boardwalk improvements coming, and we want to improve that area. Now that portion of the Boardwalk has no gaming past Resorts. We want people to come down to that area.”

The Taj Mahal’s owners — which include billionaire investor Carl Icahn — said the casino will close after Labor Day weekend, blaming striking Unite Here Local 54 workers for preventing a “path to profitability.” A WARN notice sent to the casino’s more than 2,400 workers Friday said they would be laid off Oct. 10. The Taj would be the city’s fifth casino to close since 2014.

When it opened April 2, 1990, the Taj, formerly owned by Donald J. Trump, had 120,000 square feet of gaming space and claimed to be the world's largest casino, billing itself as the “eighth wonder of the world.”

Staff Writer Diane D’Amico contributed to this report.

Contact: 609-272-7046

Twitter @ACPressHuba

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