By Robert Brizel, Head Real Combat Media Boxing Correspondent
Between 1990 and 2016, a magical 29 memorable pro boxing events have been held at The Taj Mahal Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Unfortunately, the planned boxing card number 30 will never happen. The boxing memories of the Trump Taj Mahal Casino have reached the end of the road. In a stunning development, after 100 million dollars in losses, the Icahn Company, which acquired The Taj after its parent company went bankrupt in 2014, has announced it will close its doors permanently on September 5, 2016. New Jersey laws require casino employees to receive a 60 day notice of close of hotel casino closure, meaning theoretically the soonest Taj can legally close is October 3, 2016.
Promoters Gulf Stream Group, Rising Promotions, and Peltz Promotions will reschedule a ten bout card scheduled for September 16, 2016. Makeafight online still lists The Taj, though BoxRec no longer states the card, scheduled to be held at the Taj Mahal, is at The Taj. Ten bouts are tentatively scheduled for the card, including the vacant USBA Welterweight title bout between Thomas LaManna and Dusty Harrison, which will be pushed back at least another three weeks to elsewhere in Atlantic City.
The central issue in the longest ongoing employee strike in Atlantic City history remains the restoration of health insurance and pension benefits previous owners got a bankruptcy court judge to approve in October 2014. Icahn, whose company then acquired The Taj in bankruptcy as repayment of a debt, offered to restore health insurance to Taj Mahal workers, but at a level less than what workers at Atlantic City’s other seven casinos receive. The worker’s union, which does not include employees on the casino floor itself, rejected that offer.
Presidential candidate Donald Trump, who once owned the Trump Plaza, Trump Marina, and Trump Taj Mahal, the three famed Atlantic City casinos which bore his name, cut most ties by 2009. Having lost ownership of the company to bondholders in a previous bankruptcy, Trump resigned as chairman of Trump Entertainment Resorts, retaining a 10 percent stake in the three casinos in return for the use of his name. Trump’s ten percent interest was wiped out in bankruptcy court when Icahn took over in March 2016. Trump had, for the most part, not been involved in Atlantic City for the past seven years.
According to welterweight contender Anthony ‘Juice’ Young, who was scheduled to fight a major welterweight bout with Tommy Rainone, “I heard The Taj Mahal is going out of business, but it’s not the first time I heard its going out of business. It’s only rumors, but it seems pretty serious. I was notified by Thomas LaManna via Facebook the venue is being moved. The card has been postponed, and they are looking for a new venue, a new date.”
Reached by telephone, promoter Vinny LaManna of Rising Promotions gave Real Combat Media an exclusive interview on The Taj situation.
Robert Brizel: “Wil the September 16, 2016, Thomas LaManna versus Dusty Harrison USBA Welterweight card at The Taj featuring your son still be taking place?”
Vinny LaManna: “Not for that date at The Taj. Can it be there? Yeah. Will it be there? No. Every day we lose selling tickets affects the promotion. We’re just looking at other options. Anything is a possibility. It all comes down to numbers. This only happened yesterday (the postponement).”
Robert Brizel: “Will the bout stay in Atlantic City?”
Vinny LaManna: “Absolutely.”
Robert Brizel: “Mark Etess Arena has a lot of boxing history inside those walls.”
Vinny LaManna: “(Personally I would have) I’d like for the bout to be held at the Mark Etess Arena at The Taj Mahal, because I’ve got a special love for that room. That room has a great history in it of great fights.”
Robert Brizel: “Do you think the Trump Taj Mahal is really going to close its doors for good this fall?”
Vinny LaManna: “Me, personally, I don’t believe personally that the Trump Taj Mahal is going to close its doors. Because there’s too much money invested in The Taj by the present (Icahn’s) company. The unions are killing the Taj Mahal. As a former union delegate and member, before we struck, we worked through our negotiations with retroactive pay, and it always was suitable for the company and union with New Jersey local 945. The union should be suing, not striking. Right now you have no money or benefits. It’s all according to the collective bargaining agreement. You have your own contract you negotiate.”
Robert Brizel: “Carl Icahn also owns the Tropicana Hotel and Casino. The unions claimed they were entitled to the same rights and benefits at The Taj as at The Trop.”
Vinny LaManna: “I would probably think Tropicana has a different collective bargaining agreement, because by law if you’re in the collective bargaining agreement, you get what’s in it by law. I think that this union and the union workers are doing The Taj Mahal and America a grave injustice because every employees are going to be out of work and the workers will hate the union.”
Robert Brizel: “Any idea at this point where your reschedule card will be held in Atlantic City?”
Vinny LaManna: “We are working on the smaller venue at Boardwalk Hall. There’s no happy meaning. The card is still going to be in Atlantic City, but I cannot swear yet as to where. I don’t know. We’re lucky we did not sign a contract with The Taj. My agreement was done but not signed.”
Robert Brizel: Same date as September 16, or different?”
Vinny LaManna: “Nothing (the date) will stay the same. I’d like to give September, but I may have to give them October. We’re three weeks behind again.”
Robert Brizel: “Your boxing group has done a great deal to benefit Atlantic City.”
Vinny LaManna: “Atlantic City is missing out on the best professional fight in years since Arturo Gatti fought here, and that’s crazy. Rising Promotions and Gulfsteam Promotions have worked extremely hard to bring boxing back to Atlantic City. We’re the only steady promoters in Atlantic City. This would have been our fifth show in a year. The Taj closing affects one of the best boxing shows (we have planned) in recent times. Our show was great. We had Anthony ‘Juice’ Young and Tommy Razor’ Rainone, two great fighters, scheduled to fight on the undercard of LaManna versus Harrison, and much more.
Robert Brizel: “What would you like to say about the postponement of your boxing card?”
Vinny LaManna: “Atlantic City is missing out on a great evening of boxing and great revenue. The revenue we provide at The Claridge is outstanding…………and that’s not even a casino!”