A Look Inside Donald Trump’s Failed Taj Mahal Casino

A Look Inside Donald Trump’s Failed Taj Mahal Casino

Fortune Magazine

Just hours after the second 2016 presidential debate, the Atlantic City casino Donald Trump opened 21 years ago--Trump Taj Mahal--is officially shutting its doors.

The struggling casino, now controlled by Trump's supporter Carl Icahn, closed Monday after it failed to make a deal with union workers over health insurance and pension benefits. It was the nail in the coffin for the casino, which had been losing "multi-millions a month," according to Icahn in August, when he decided to close the casino permanently. Taj Mahal is the fifth casino to close in Atlantic City since 2014, including Trump Plaza.

When Trump first began building Taj Mahal in 1990 for $1 billion, he called it the “eighth wonder of the world.” But the casino and its overarching company, Trump Entertainment Resorts, were built on debt--and it continued to pile it on while the casinos continued to lose tens of millions.

An interior of the Trump Taj Mahal Casino in 2006.
An interior of the Trump Taj Mahal Casino in 2006.

During Trump’s 13 years as the chairman of the board between 1995 and 2009, the company made three trips through bankruptcy court, and was about to file its fourth when he left. Trump also resigned as CEO in 2004.

A patron rides down the escalators at Trump Taj Mahal.
A patron rides down the escalators at Trump Taj Mahal.

Though Trump Entertainment Resorts was losing million, Trump personally profited during his tenure, partially thanks to a deal that had his flailing casinos buying up Trump Ice bottled water. Trump walked away having pocketed roughly $82 million during his time there.

Living room of Taj Mahal's Alexander the Great Suite. It once housed Michael Jackson.
Living room of Taj Mahal’s Alexander the Great Suite. It once housed Michael Jackson.

In 2014, Trump sued Trump Entertainment Resorts, seeking to remove his name from the Taj Mahal and Plaza casinos. According to Trump, the business had failed to live up to his brand’s “superior reputation.”

“I felt they should have been able to make a deal,” Trump told the Associated Press earlier this month regarding the Taj Mahal closure. “It’s hard to believe they weren’t able to make a deal.”

Trump
The master bedroom of the Alexander the Great Suite at one the new Penthouse Suites at Trump Taj Mahal is photographed in Atlantic City, N.J. on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2007.Photograph by David Gard--AP

Icahn, who backs Trump’s run for president, released a statement regarding the closure on Monday:

“Today is a sad day for Atlantic City. Despite our best efforts, which included losing almost $350 million over just a few short years, we were unable to save the Taj Mahal. I am extremely grateful to all of the almost 3,000 employees for their hard work, especially those that stayed loyal to us during this trying period. After our last offer, which included medical, was rejected, it was simply impossible to find a workable path forward that would not have required funding additional investments and losses in excess of $100 million over the next year. Like many of the employees at the Taj Mahal, I wish things had turned out differently.”

One of the penhouse bathrooms in the Taj Mahal.
One of the penthouse bathrooms in the Taj Mahal.

Icahn bought up the Trump Entertainment Resorts earlier this year after it emerged from bankruptcy, placing it under the management of another Icahn-owned gaming company, Tropicana Entertainment. Icahn’s purchase also wiped out Trump’s 10% stake in the company at the time.

view Fortune Magazine