With an already shrinking live poker market in Atlantic City and the Trump Taj Mahal closing on September 4th, the number of poker rooms in the once-thriving live poker scene has gone down to only five: the WSOP Poker Room at Bally’s, The Tropicana, Harrahs, The Golden Nugget and the Borgata.
The live poker market is feeling the pinch with the Taj being the fifth casino to close in Atlantic City in three years. It’s the fifth out of 12. In 2015, the revenue of the city’s casinos dropped to $31.86 million, whereas in 2013 this was still $43.56 million.
In the mid-nineties, live poker was very popular and immortalized by a scene in the movie Rounders, filmed in the Taj Poker Room. Mike McDermott’s ‘just to know’ if he could bluff against his hero Johnny Chan, was made against the setting of the poker room. ‘Worm’ called it the poker room “where the sand turns to gold”.
After Trump Entertainment declared bankruptcy as owner of the Taj in February 2015, there was an offer coming from Billionaire investor, Carl Icahn, to turn the debt into equity.
If the city would grant him certain concessions he also offered to invest another $100 million in the casino. These concessions included cessation of workers’ pension benefits and healthcare, and they were duly granted by the city. The union had been picketing the casino in protest for weeks until the announcement of the closure last week.
“The reopening of the Taj poker room had been part of Icahn’s promised investment. But the number of tables had been cut to 25, from 40 at its peak, and attendance was described as “lackluster” on the opening day by local press”.
Icahn washed his hands of the Taj last week and sated that worker’s demands were unworkable as the property was losing millions monthly.
The vulnerability of Atlantic City’s casinos is once again highlighted and with the proposal to expand casino gaming into North Jersey, the Atlantic City casino industry might even face more casino closures soon.