Slot machines were still flashing their neon lights inside the Trump Taj Mahal early Monday morning as workers barricaded the doors shut with cut-down wooden boards.
The casino and hotel, which Donald Trump dubbed the “Eighth Wonder of the World” when he opened it in 1990, closed for good just before 6 a.m.
About 3,000 workers lost their jobs.
“It was like burying a loved one. You don’t want to let them go,” said relief cook Chuck Baker.
Current owner Carl Icahn decided to close the Taj Mahal after failing to reach a contract agreement with unionized workers, who had been on strike for months to protest their health and pension benefits.
“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,” said Icahn, in a statement. “Like many of the employees at the Taj Mahal, I wish things had turned out differently.”
The Taj Mahal is the fifth Atlantic City casino to close since 2014, when gambling houses began to shutter amid slipping profits and increased competition from neighboring states.
But Unite Here Local 54 president Bob McDevitt claimed that Icahn closed the casino to retaliate against workers who walked off the job in July.
“There is no way that Carl Icahn made the decision based upon finances,” said McDevitt. “This was an attack on workers who stood up to him.”
Although Trump no longer owns the casino, his presence was felt on the boardwalk Monday morning — and not only because the building still bears his name.
“Carl Icahn’s economic policies are the same as Donald Trump’s,” said Tina Condos, a former cocktail waitress at the Taj Mahal, just hours after the second presidential debate. “If you want to make America great again, let’s try to make this city — and the building with your name on it — great again.”
Condos said the casino closure was a sign that owners no longer cared about the rights of workers, whom she said helped make Atlantic City the destination resort it is. “They came. They took. They sucked out the money. And they left all the workers here.”
Atlantic City resident Michael Gesualdo was one of the last gamblers to place a bet inside the Taj Mahal. “My heart’s hurting,” he said as the doors closed behind him.
When asked what the Taj Mahal meant to him, Gesualdo replied, “Everything! Food, the atmosphere, living life. Come on, man! It’s the center of the universe.”
But now-jobless employees like relief cook Chuck Baker were nevertheless hopeful the casino would reopen someday, like others that have recently gone under.
Showboat, which closed in 2014, has since reopened as a hotel. The new owner of the Revel, which also shuttered in 2014, hopes to debut a new resort there soon.
“They’re burying Taj Mahal, [but] maybe it’ll rise from the ashes and the dust again to the grandeur that it once was.”