Thursday, December 18, 2014

Yet Another Casino Update

Yesterday I noted that Atlantic City's Trump Taj Mahal casino/hotel was facing imminent closure as Carl Icahn and its union battled in a Delaware bankruptcy court.

Last night came a break in the case when Icahn, the company's senior creditor and presumptive new owner, agreed to just about all the union's demands.  He pledged to roll another $100 million in to keep the joint running, and, as I write, the New Jersey legislature is considering whether to grant tax breaks or something called payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTS), or something else, that will give the Taj Mahal $150 million.

New Jersey's political leadership is desperate for Atlantic City to be transformed into something other than a failed set of seaside casino/resorts with an even more failed city starting one block over.  It seems likely that similar accommodations will be expected by the seven remaining casinos of the 12 that were in business just one year ago.  So far there has been no plan put forward to revitalize the rest of that sad city.

For his efforts, Icahn also will get the other asset in Trump Entertainment Resorts -- the Trump Plaza, a 39-story casino/hotel that fell into disrepair over several years, lost $7.4 million in the first six months of 2014 and closed in September.  A recent photo is below.

(Donald Trump, by the way, owns nine or 10 percent of the "equity" in Trump Entertainment Resorts, whose value is now approximately zero.  He petitioned in August to have "Trump" excised from the company name.
        (Maybe the business could be renamed Icahn Entertainment Resorts and merged with the Tropicana casino/resort, which Icahn already owns in Atlantic City.
        (Of course, Icahn may just be a modest guy.  He never renamed TWA, the airline he bought in 1985, for instance, and then stripped of its assets and loaded up with debt.  Maybe he didn't have time; TWA was absorbed by AMR, the operator of American Airlines in 2001.)

Much of Atlantic City's commercial hopes are pinned now on the scheduled opening next year of a Bass Pro Shops outlet not far from the Plaza, and it has been speculated that Icahn will "repurpose" the hotel to mesh with the new installation.

Maybe the business plan for the Plaza includes a Venn diagram that shows an overlap between the populations of outdoorsmen and gamblers.  Who knows?

Another Gambling City

A relative of mine who travels the world on business points out that Singapore has adopted gambling in recent years, but with an interesting twist.  Recently, on a visit to that paternalistic but successful country, he found that, as a tourist, he was able to enter casinos for no charge.  Singaporeans, on the other hand, were required to pay $100 to get in the door.

Such an approach would be impossible here, of course.  For one thing, it would invalidate almost every state's participation in Mega Millions, Lotto and scratch-off games.  While these games are lucrative for public entities, they collect a lot of money that individuals (virtually all of them losers) could put to better use in their family budgets.

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