[toc]The Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City has a new owner: Hard Rock Cafe International, Inc.
A new owner for the Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal owner Icahn Enterprises issued a press release late Wednesday to announce “entrance into a definitive agreement to sell the former Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort (the “Taj Mahal”) in Atlantic City, New Jersey to a group of investors led by Hard Rock International (“Hard Rock”).”
Billionaire Carl Icahn, chairman of Icahn Enterprises, offered this statement on the deal:
“We at IEP are extremely happy with our ownership of the Tropicana Casino & Resort, and after considerable analysis and deliberation we determined that we only wanted to own one operating casino property in Atlantic City.
A sale of the Taj Mahal therefore represents the optimal outcome for us. We wish Hard Rock and its partners the best of luck with the Taj Mahal.”
The news was originally reported by by the Press of AC. According to its reporting, New Jersey state Sen. Jim Whelan said that Hard Rock has a deal in place to buy the shuttered casino resort from Icahn. The newspaper said it had confirmed the deal with multiple sources.
Details beyond that are sparse. There apparently will be an announcement on Thursday.
Icahn had announced his intention to sell the property just a few years after he had acquired it.
Hard Rock and Taj, a natural fit
Of course, the purchase by Hard Rock would make sense on multiple fronts.
First, there is already a Hard Rock Cafe on the Trump Taj Mahal property. Adding a Hard Rock branded resort behind it could be a relatively seamless transition.
Also, Hard Rock already operates a variety of casinos and resorts across the country, most notably in Florida. Hard Rock is owned by the Seminole Tribe in Florida. Hard Rock will theoretically be poised to turn the property from closed to open in short order.
Another casino back in the mix?
Will Hard Rock reopen the Taj Mahal as a resort with casino gambling?
While we don’t know the answer to that directly, it seems difficult to believe the deal is just to open a resort, if a casino license is available.
The impact of the Taj Mahal stirring back to life would have an unknown impact on the remaining AC casinos. While Hard Rock getting into the mix in AC will likely be additive to some extent in terms of gaming revenue, it will also likely cannibalize some existing gaming revenue from other casinos.
Casino revenue found its footing in recent months, seeing increases year on year for the first time in a decade.
Signs of life on the AC boardwalk
If the sale to Hard Rock goes through, things are indeed going well for the part of AC near the Taj of late:
- Showboat AC reopened only as a hotel and has been doing well.
- Showboat owner Bart Blatstein recently bought a number of lots in the area, with plans to redevelop them.
- While TEN AC has had a difficult time reopening, it seems like the former Revel casino will eventually see life again.
Correction: An earlier version said that Hard Rock owns the resort in Las Vegas. It does not.