Posts Tagged ‘Atlantic’

Atlantic City Mayor Urges Carl Icahn to Sell Trump Taj Mahal

 Atlantic City Mayor Urges Carl Icahn to Sell Trump Taj Mahal

The Trump Taj Mahal has been closed for three months, a black hole on the uptown end of the Atlantic City Boardwalk. Its owner, Carl Icahn, shows little serious desire to do anything to revive it.

Last Wednesday, Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian spoke with reporters after his State of Atlantic City speech at the Golden Nugget last Wednesday, saying he would like Icahn to sell the former poker mecca of the east coast to someone who well get it up and running again.

“It’s the worst of the worst, things like that,” Guardian said, referring to the Taj’s closing. “Taj Mahal was the crown jewel before the Borgata in Atlantic City. It’s a great facility, but it didn’t get that $ 100 million face lift that the other properties got in Atlantic City and so you knew it when you walked in there. But it’s a great property; I really hope that Mr. Icahn, if he doesn’t want to build, sells it…and lets someone else come in and do it.”

“He doesn’t have any faith in the city, I get it, or the state…but don’t let us lose that building and leave it vacant on the Boardwalk. We need the thousands of jobs, we need the taxes, and we need the type of activity that it draws to bring people to Atlantic City.”

Guardian added that he felt confident that eventually something will be figured out and Icahn will find a financially beneficial solution for himself and someone else will be able to get the action going again at the Taj Mahal.

Carl Icahn and his company Icahn Enterprises took control of the Taj Mahal after the casino’s former owner, Trump Entertainment Resorts, emerged from bankruptcy proceedings in February 2016. He had pledged the $ 100 million that Guardian mentioned, but wanted concessions from the Unite Here Local 54 union and tax breaks from the city and state in return. He got the concessions – union members lost their pension and healthcare benefits – but he didn’t get the tax breaks, so the $ 100 million was never invested.

During the first half of 2016, the union tried to negotiate with Icahn Enterprises to get their pension and healthcare back, but the company wouldn’t budge. Thus, about 1,000 Taj Mahal staff members went on strike in early July.  A few weeks later, Tropicana Entertainment (the company that operates the Taj) President and CEO Tony Rodio announced that the casino would be closing, blaming it on a lack of profitability brought on by the strike.

Since October 10th, Icahn has been losing hundreds of thousands dollars a month letting it sit vacant, as utilities still cost money, as do things like property taxes. In late December, the New York Post reported that Icahn was in talks with other casino operators to possibly sell the casino, but last week, Icahn told the Associated Press that the Taj Mahal was not for sale.

He did make one exception: he said he would happily sell for $ 300 million to Mayor Guardian, which is the amount of money he says he has lost since owning the casino.

Poker News Daily

Carl Icahn in Talks to Sell Atlantic City’s Trump Taj Mahal

 Carl Icahn in Talks to Sell Atlantic City’s Trump Taj Mahal

According to the New York Post, Carl Icahn, whose Icahn Enterprises owns the Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, is in discussions with other casino operators to sell the property. The former center of east coast poker closed on October 10th.

Aside from making money, one of the reasons Icahn is looking to make a deal may be because he might not be allowed to re-open the casino for five years. Less than two weeks after the Taj Mahal closed, the New Jersey Senate passed S2575 by a 29 to 6 vote, an amendment which would add a reason why someone could be disqualified from holding a casino license. In this case, it would disqualify a licensee who closed a casino. Specifically, the amendment reads:

Notwithstanding the provisions of any law, rule, or regulation to the contrary, the substantial closure of a casino hotel facility by the licensee occurring on or after January 1, 2016 shall disqualify the licensee from continuing to hold that license and shall constitute sufficient cause for revocation of that license, except that such substantial closure shall not impact any other pre-existing casino license held by the licensee. The division shall determine what constitutes a substantial closure of a casino hotel facility pursuant to this section.

Last Monday, the New Jersey Assembly passed the bill by a 60 to 17 vote; it now goes to Governor Chris Christie for his signature, though it is not known if he will sign it. The above disqualification would last five years.

Considering the retroactive date in the amendment, this bill specifically targets Carl Icahn. The reason for this is the way Icahn took control of the Taj and the way he handled things after doing so. Trump Entertainment Resorts – the former owner of the Taj – went into bankruptcy proceedings in September 2014. Icahn, the company’s largest debt holder, took control of the Taj Mahal when the company emerged from bankruptcy in February of this year. During the bankruptcy proceedings, the Unite Here Local 54 union lost its pension and healthcare benefits.

This year, after Icahn took over, the Unite Here Local 54 tried to negotiate with his company and the operator of the Taj Mahal, Tropicana Entertainment, to get its benefits back, but Icahn was not agreeable to what the union was looking for. In July, the about 1,000 union workers went on strike and, citing the inability of the Taj Mahal profit because of the strike, Tropicana Entertinament President and CEO Tony Rodio announced a few weeks later that the Taj Mahal would close.

Some believed that after the closure, Icahn would try to re-open the casino using non-union labor so that he would not have to pay union benefits. Thus the reason for the bill.

Senate president Steve Sweeney, the sponsor of the bill, told the AP in June, “Casino owners shouldn’t be manipulating the system and exploiting bankruptcy laws as a way to break unions and take away the rights and benefits of the workers. Atlantic City’s gaming industry is obviously experiencing the difficult challenges of competition from other states, but the answer is not to engage in practices that punish the workers.”

If the bill becomes law, Icahn would be unable to re-open without re-negotiating with the union, which could very well be why he is looking to sell.

Poker News Daily

Atlantic City’s Trump Taj Mahal Closes

 Atlantic City’s Trump Taj Mahal Closes

The Trump Taj Mahal Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City closed yesterday after 26 years. Once the poker hub of the east coast, the Taj is no longer owned by the groping Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, but rather by billionaire investor Carl Icahn’s Icahn Enterprises and is operated by Tropicana Entertainment.

The Taj Mahal came to be in Icahn’s hands after Trump Entertainment Resorts exited bankruptcy in February 2016 (I know it’s surprising that a Donald Trump venture had problems, but humor me here); Icahn was its largest debt holder and agreed to take it on. He had said he was also going to spend $ 100 million to improve the property, but he never did.

In late 2014, when Trump Entertainment Resorts began bankruptcy proceedings, employees lost their health care and pension benefits. This July, the Unite Here Local 54, which includes over 1,000 staffers of the Taj, including cooks, bellmen, and housekeepers, went on strike to protest their loss of benefits. A month later, Tropicana Entertainment announced that the casino would close, blaming the strike for the Taj’s lack of profitability.

Bob McDevitt, President of Unite Here Local 54, said of Icahn at the time:

How petty. I would never have thought Carl Icahn was so one-dimensional. 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. There was no element of trying to reach an agreement here on Icahn’s part; it was always “my way or the highway” from the beginning with Icahn. It is the epitome of the playground bully, who picks up his ball and announces he is going home because nobody else would do it his way. It is truly a shame that such an unscrupulous person has control of billions of dollars.

The Trump Taj Mahal’s famous poker room really became known, according to The Press of Atlantic City, when it became host of the U.S. Poker Championship in 1996. It was the first $ 10,000 tourney on the east coast and for a number of years was arguably the highlight live poker tournament in the United States outside of the World Series of Poker.

Many poker fans and, really, non-poker fans will remember the Taj in its significant cameo role in the seminal 1998 poker film Rounders.

“It was the place that you could go play without violating any laws and where, if you were someone who wanted to get better at poker and study the best players, you were there,” Rounders writer Brian Koppelman told The Press. “If you were someone who wanted to hustle people, you could go there and find tourists to hustle.”

And that is exactly what was portrayed in the film. In one scene, the New York grinders, including Matt Damon and Edward Norton’s characters, took advantage of unsuspecting tourists. In another, Damon’s character, Mike McDermott, recalls a time he sat down at a table with Johnny Chan for much more money than he could afford and bluffed the two-time WSOP Main Event champ out of a pot.

When the glitzy Borgata opened in 2003, the Taj Mahal’s poker room could not keep up. The Borgata soon became the place to play poker in Atlantic City and casinos in other states kept out-of-state players home. The Taj Mahal poker room closed for “renovations” in February 2015 and didn’t re-open for more than a year, just in time for the strike and the casino’s closure.

Poker News Daily

A Tale of Two Cities: Atlantic City Blues and Las Vegas Changes

 A Tale of Two Cities: Atlantic City Blues and Las Vegas Changes

Once they were intricately linked as the only two “legal” areas to gamble in the United States. Since 1976, when the state of New Jersey joined Nevada as the only places which offered casino gaming in the U. S., the two have enjoyed a friendly rivalry as the years have gone by. Forty years later, it seems that there is a tale of two cities that have vastly different outcomes.

In an article earlier this month, journalist Brent Johnson of NJ.com discussed the problems of the city on the Jersey Shore. The New Jersey legislature is currently considering a proposal which would allow state officials to take over operation of Atlantic City due to municipal insolvency – essentially the city is bankrupt. According to Johnson, State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (who is entertaining the idea of running for Governor) is “pursuing the plan as the best way to save Atlantic City, which has given millions of dollars in casino tax revenue to the state for decades.” Sweeney has a powerful ally on his side, current New Jersey governor Chris Christie (back from his failed attempt at the GOP Presidential nomination), who has said Sweeney would be “given all the tools at my disposal” to make Atlantic City successful again.

Naturally, Atlantic City officials aren’t pleased with these moves. Atlantic City mayor Don Guardian says the plan from Trenton is “the takeover of a fascist dictatorship” and that it goes way too far. Guardian has some support from state Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, reports Johnson, but Christie is laying the blame for the failure of the city at Prieto’s feet should it occur. The problem at hand is that, without any action, Wall Street ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service says that Atlantic City could default on debt payments as early as April and may face bankruptcy.

To paraphrase Timbuk 3, “the future’s so bright, they gotta wear shades” in Las Vegas. According to The Motley Fool, development in Sin City is preparing to make the city even more attractive and not just to those who gamble. The Fool points out three projects that, once completed, should completely change the landscape of Las Vegas and “shift its focus away from gaming,” The Fool states.

The first project is slated for the north end of the Strip. Genting Group is looking to build Resorts World Las Vegas (the picture is what the proposed property would look like) at this location, a $ 4 BILLION complex that will include 7000 hotel rooms, a movie theater, convention arenas and a 30,000 square foot lake in the motif of a Chinese garden. Along with the Wynn, which will be located nearby, and the Venetian and Palazzo operations, the addition of the Resorts property would shift the balance of power to the north side of the Las Vegas Strip.

MGM Resorts is not getting left behind, building a 20,000 seat multi-purpose arena behind New York-New York that will be an enticement for professional sports teams looking for a new home. With the National Hockey League looking at Las Vegas as a potential expansion outlet, the MGM Resorts’ T-Mobile Arena would be a perfect spot for the franchise to play. Besides the NHL other sporting events (boxing and MMA, indoor motocross, indoor football, etc.), concerts and trade shows could be staged at the new property.

Finally, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is looking to spend $ 2.3 BILLION to put a new Las Vegas Convention Center on the site of the long-gone Riviera Hotel and Casino. Located in the same area as the Wynn (see, the North End is booming), it would be a further indication that the city of Las Vegas is looking to move away from casino gaming and towards making the city a primo location for conventions. According to The Fool, at least one in 10 visitors to Las Vegas now go there for business purposes such as a convention rather than pleasure.

So why the big difference between the two? Atlantic City once was the ONLY spot to gamble on the East Coast when it opened in 1976. Since then, however, every state around New Jersey has opened some form of casino gaming, usurping the crowds that used to hit the Boardwalk (four casinos have closed in Atlantic City in the past two years). In 2006, the New Jersey casinos generated over $ 5.1 billion in revenues for the city and state; in 2013, those figures dropped to around $ 2.8 billion and, in 2015, fell to $ 2.3 billion.

Las Vegas, however, has a long history of gaming and – for good or ill – a constant ability to reinvent itself. Sin City realizes that there are a multitude of reasons that people come to the desert and tries to give it all to the people. As such, that constant “change” keeps people coming back. It also helps that it is one of the most popular destinations for air travel in the U. S., where Atlantic City is a good hour’s drive from the nearest major airport.

The “twin sisters of gaming” seem to have changed as they have gotten a bit older. Las Vegas will always be there, its chameleon-like visage constantly shifting with the times. The story may not be as good with Atlantic City, who is more like the fading starlet that is potentially past her prime.

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