By Brenda Flanagan
“We had a great time, and adios Taj Mahal Trump!” said Ohio resident Bruce Perry.
Long-time patrons bid farewell as gawkers yanked on doors locked and blocked since 6 a.m. when the Trump Taj Mahal became Atlantic City’s fifth casino to close since 2014.
“You know, we’re driving down the strip and we see Revel, and Showboat and now Taj. I guess everything is in cycles. Maybe it’ll come back,” said Vic Eng from Long Island.
“I don’t understand it. I’m spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars over here and you can’t make your building work? That doesn’t say good things to me,” Ohio native Penny Tripodi said.
His name’s on it, but Donald Trump lost control of Taj in 2004. Trump garnished it with gilded elephants and crushing debts. Three bankruptcies ultimately. But it opened 26 years ago as the so-called eighth wonder of the world.
“Taj Mahal is number one in every category. It’s number one in slots, it’s number one in games, it’s number one in gross profits, it’s number one in revenues.” said Trump in 1996.
“It was real grand. It was like a Hollywood production,” said Chuck Baker.
But the Taj cook is now laid off — along with 2,800 other workers who lined up for help with unemployment forms today. Back in July they lined up on strike for better benefits. But the walkout didn’t work.
“It was long, it was a hard struggle. It was heartfelt. I woke up today knowing they were locking it. I’ll wake up tomorrow and really the reality will set in that I have no job,” Baker said.
Taj dropped millions a month during the strike and its new owner Carl Icahn shut the casino down calling it, “…a sad day for Atlantic City. Despite our best efforts, which include losing almost $350 million over just a few short years, we were unable to save the Taj Mahal.”
And with Atlantic City in financial turmoil…
“We’ve lost about 2,000 hotel rooms, we’ve lost 150,000 square feet of gaming space and similarly about 150,000 square feet of meeting space. So it is not a good story from the city’s perspective,” said Stockton University’s Rummy Pandit.
Atlantic City’s still fighting to stave off a state takeover and stabilize its flailing finances. It just offered 162 of its longest-serving employees early retirement packages which the state must approve.
“Employees who want to leave will have some incentives to leave and hopefully it’ll save the jobs of employees who were scheduled to be laid off because we’re still facing some layoffs and some tough challenges in the city,” Virginia Darnell said.
The Taj hasn’t unveiled its plans. Speculation?
“It’s amazing. I think it’s going to be missed, but I think they’ll reopen. I think Carl Icahn will get it working,” said West Palm Beach resident Steve Bruno.
The union will run the resource center through Friday to help members sign up for unemployment as this town continues to downsize.