By Wayne Parry
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Atlantic City's crumbling casino market disintegrated even further this weekend as the owners of the Trump Plaza casino said they expect to shut down in mid-September.
Trump Entertainment Resorts told The Associated Press that no final decision has been made on the Boardwalk casino. But the company on Saturday said it expects the casino to close its doors Sept. 16.
Notices warning employees of the expected closing will go out to the casino's 1,000-plus workers Monday.
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If Trump Plaza closes, Atlantic City could lose a third of its casinos and a quarter of its casino workforce in less than nine months. The Atlantic Club closed in January, the Showboat is closing next month, and Revel (REVEQ) might do likewise if a buyer can't be found in bankruptcy court.
The head of Atlantic City's main casino workers' union demanded state lawmakers help head off what he called a "pending catastrophe" that will affect the state's tourism industry and tax collections.
Trump Entertainment Resorts told the AP that its managers and board of directors "have been reviewing alternatives for the property. Although this review has not been completed and no final decision has been made, the company expects that it will terminate the operations of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino on or shortly after September 16, 2014."
A source with direct knowledge of the situation who was not authorized to speak to the media told the AP that the company has hired a search firm to solicit buyers for Trump Plaza, an effort that remains ongoing. So far, no buyer has emerged.
The company did not indicate what might become of the building after it is closed.
Bob McDevitt, president of local 54 of the Unite-HERE union, said 7,000 casino workers -- or about one in four -- have been warned their jobs could disappear within 60 days.
"While this is a personal tragedy for every family involved, it is also a crisis for the state," he said. "We expect Trenton to react with more than just sympathetic sound bites; we demand action equal to the magnitude of this pending catastrophe."
Trump Plaza, which cost $210 million to build, opened in May 1984 as one of Donald Trump's pet projects. The real estate mogul has since limited his dealings in Atlantic City to a 10% stake in Trump Entertainment Resorts.
"I let them use my name, but I have nothing to do with it," Trump told the AP on Saturday. "Atlantic City has suffered for years. Many mistakes were made by government, tremendous mistakes, including no reinvestment in town; they would take casino revenue and put it in places that had nothing to do with Atlantic City. I got out seven years ago; my timing was tremendous."
New Jersey in recent years has required casino development taxes to be used only in Atlantic City.
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The news is the latest in a cascade of setbacks for Atlantic City's gambling market, which until just a few years ago was the second-largest in the nation after Nevada; Pennsylvania has now taken over that spot. Analysts have long said that the casino market here, and in the northeastern United States, has been oversaturated, and that some casinos need to close to ensure the survival of others.
On Jan. 1, Atlantic City had 12 casinos. By the end of September, it could have eight.
The Atlantic Club closure cost 1,600 workers their jobs. An additional 2,100 at Showboat will be unemployed as of Aug. 31, along with 1,009 Trump Plaza workers on the payroll. Revel has 3,100 workers who could lose their jobs if the 2-year-old casino resort is not sold.
Trump Entertainment Resorts has tried for years to sell Trump Plaza, the poorest-performing casino in Atlantic City. A deal to sell it last year for $20 million to a California firm collapsed.
It won less than $73 million from gamblers in all of last year, ranking last out of the 12 casinos that operated then. So far this year, it has taken in nearly $21 million, down almost 27% from the same period last year.