AP: Taj Mahal closes Dec. 12 if union keeps appeal

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - Trump Entertainment Resorts said it will close the Taj Mahal on Dec. 12 if its main union doesn't drop an appeal of a court-ordered savings package.

CEO Robert Griffin told The Associated Press on Thursday that the company has notified the state Division of Gaming Enforcement of the planned shutdown date.

The union is appealing a bankruptcy court order that terminated the union contract, canceling health insurance and pension coverage. If the appeal isn't withdrawn by the end of the month, the casino will close and its 3,000 jobs will be lost, Griffin said.

The notice to state regulators follows a letter the company sent Monday to its employees urging them to pressure the union to drop the appeal. In it, Griffin described the company as "a very sick patient lying on his death bed." It came on the day the company originally had planned to close the Taj Mahal before extending its deadline by a month.

The company said relief from health insurance and pension costs, which a bankruptcy court judge in Delaware granted Oct. 17, is essential to keeping the casino open. It described its appeal to the union as a "last ditch" effort to keep the casino open.

"Our company is unfortunately hanging on by the skin of its teeth," Griffin wrote to Taj Mahal employees. "We are quickly running out of money."

Trump Entertainment has committed to keeping the Taj Mahal open only through the end of November.

The company is pursuing a complicated plan to save the casino by transferring ownership to billionaire investor Carl Icahn, who would pump $100 million into it. That investment is contingent on getting city or state officials to sign off on $175 million in assistance. New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney and Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian have rejected that request, and Gov. Chris Christie was decidedly cool to it at a forum on the city's future Wednesday.

Trump Entertainment is offering union workers a stipend to help them find health insurance through government-run exchanges under the federal health care law.

The union said Icahn can well afford to keep the casino open on his own.

"I think we are all tired of being bullied by billionaire Carl Icahn," said Bob McDevitt, Local 54's president. "First, he rips away health care and other things from workers, and then he tells us, that workers can't even have their day in court. He wants the taxpayers to subsidize health care for the workers, so that he can grow his fortune.

"For two months now, this guy has been trying to take advantage of Atlantic City and everyone's situation," McDevitt said. "He's already taken enough money out of the place, so no one is buying that he can't keep the Taj open if he wants to."

Icahn did not immediately respond to a request for comment.