Prior to 1978, the only American state in which casino gambling was legal was the idyllic state of Nevada. In 1978, New Jersey became the second US state to offer legal gambling activities, which were kicked off with the launch of Resorts Casino in Atlantic City.
Since then, Atlantic City has become home to a long list of casinos, many of which closed shortly after they arrived. The rest of America soon caught on and opened up casinos of their own, but Atlantic City has remained one of the most-well known gambling capitals in the world.
A Chequered History for Trump’s Casino
Of all the casinos that have graced Atlantic City’s streets, none had a more abrupt decline than Donald Trump’s own Taj Mahal casino. Once, the casino was one of the most opulent and luxurious establishments in Atlantic City’s casino belt – one which Trump himself dubbed the “eighth world wonder”.
However, nowadays the casino is merely a shadow of its former self, having been predicted to become Atlantic City’s fifth casino closure in 2014. The casino narrowly avoided this fate by being purchased by billionaire tycoon Carl Icahn, who planned to add $100 million into restoring the establishment to its former glory.
Unfortunately, these plans were not to last, and Icahn has now ordered the iconic Taj Mahal casino to be closed. While these plans will presumably be carried through, many casino-goers are sceptical as these precise plans were ordered two years ago as well. Regardless of the casino’s future fate, it does have a rich and intriguing history, from its incredible beginnings to its unceremonious fall from glory.
The Taj Mahal’s Grand Opening
The Trump Taj Mahal opened its doors on April 2, 1990. The casino was Atlantic City’s twelfth casino hotel, and cost over $1 billion to build, making it the largest and most expensive casino in the metropolis. Trump already owned two other casinos in the city; the Trump Plaza and the Trump Castle, now known as the Golden Nugget. No expense was spared when creating the Taj Mahal, which opened with fireworks and laser displays, costumed actors, and a performance by Michael Jackson himself.
The casino was one of the world’s largest casinos ever built, offering 3,000 slot machines, 160 gaming tables, and the largest poker room in Atlantic City. Millions of dollars were spent on crystal chandeliers, deluxe guest suites, pools, health clubs, restaurants and entertainment venues, including a massive 5,500 suite arena.
Opening Day Nightmares and Bankruptcy
Not everything was smooth sailing for the luxury casino. Long queues awaited casino visitors, and every restaurant was packed to capacity. Checking into the hotel was also a nightmare, presenting up to 5 hour waits due to computer issues. Despite this, there were some winners on the day as well, with Trump himself winning $604,000 at the Taj Mahal casino!
However, it was not to last. Trump’s overspending had created a mountain of debt – $820 million – in less than a year. This was just one of four bankruptcies in the casino’s history, with the fourth erasing Trump’s ownership of the casino completely.
The Taj Mahal Closes for Good
Luckily, Carl Icahn averted the casino’s closing in 2014 by agreeing to purchase it out of bankruptcy. The Taj Mahal sold for $300 million, and the sale was finalised in February of 2016. Several attempts were made by the new owner to revitalise the casino, but constant employee strikes posed endless challenges for the establishment.
Finally, Icahn announced the official closing of the Taj Mahal on October 10 this year, reducing the casino only to the memories of the grandiose establishment it once was.