ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - Trump Entertainment Resorts filed for bankruptcy Tuesday and threatened to shut down the Taj Mahal Casino Resort, which would make it the fifth Atlantic City casino to close this year.
The company owns Trump Plaza, which is closing in a week, and the Taj Mahal, which has been experiencing cash-flow problems and had been trying to stave off a default with its lenders. The company said the Taj Mahal could close Nov. 13 if it doesn't win salary concessions from union workers.
It's the fourth such filing for the struggling casino company or its corporate predecessors.
The company filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware, saying it has liabilities of between $100 million and $500 million, and assets of no more than $50,000. It missed its quarterly tax payment due last month, and says it doesn't have the cash to make an interest payment to lenders due at the end of the month.
It also says both its Internet gambling partners have taken steps to end their contracts with Trump Entertainment.
It said cost-cutting negotiations with the main casino workers' union have stalled, and that the company is preparing notices warning employees the Taj Mahal may close on Nov. 13.
"Absent expense reductions, particularly concessions from their unions, the debtors expect that the Taj Mahal will close on or shortly after November 13, 2014 and that all operating units will be terminated between November 13, 2014 and November 27, 2014," the company wrote in its bankruptcy filing.
If the company makes good on its threat to close the Taj Mahal, it would further rock an already shell-shocked casino market in what just a few years ago was the nation's second-largest gambling market after Nevada. Now, New Jersey has fallen behind Pennsylvania.
Three other Atlantic City casinos have closed this year, as the industry struggles with competition in nearby states. Atlantic City began the year with 12 casinos, but could end it with seven if the Taj Mahal closes. So far this year, the Atlantic Club, Showboat and Revel have gone out of business, with Trump Plaza closing next Tuesday.
The bankruptcy filing came a day after Gov. Chris Christie's administration told the state's casinos and horse tracks that they can legally offer sports betting — a move that defies a federal ban on it and is sure to be challenged in court by the professional and amateur sports leagues which have fought it thus far.
Trump Entertainment has struggled since the day it emerged from its last bankruptcy in 2010, having filed the year before. It came out of bankruptcy with $350 million in debt, and currently has more than $285 million in debt.
As of the end of July, the company employed 2,800 people.
The company has been trying to reduce expenses and debt, including selling its former Trump Marina casino for $38 million to Landry's Inc., which now runs it as the Golden Nugget Atlantic City. It also sold the Steel Pier for $4.5 million; a warehouse for $1.9 million, and its former corporate offices in a converted firehouse for $3.1 million. That building now houses the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.
It has been trying for years to sell Trump Plaza. A deal to sell it to a California firm for $20 million last year fell through.
The company also said it has been in negotiations with Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union on cost-cutting measures it says it needs to survive, but that the union has rejected them. Bob McDevitt, the union president, said that Trump Entertainment wanted union members to surrender their health insurance and pension plans, something he rejected. McDevitt said that even if the union agreed to those concessions, they would only total $11 million per year, which would hardly make a difference in the company's finances.
The concessions would be on top of a separate $4 million round of union concessions the company won in 2011.
Donald Trump owns a 9 per cent stake in the firm, but neither controls it nor has any involvement in it. He is suing the company to remove his name from the properties, which he says have fallen into disrepair and do not meet agreed-upon standards of quality and luxury.
If the Taj Mahal closes, Trump Entertainment would have no remaining properties and would presumably go out of business.
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC