Trump Taj Mahal Poker Room Reopens in Atlantic City, But Attendance is Lackluster for Soft Kickoff

Posted on: May 19, 2016, 11:00h. 

Last updated on: May 19, 2016, 11:10h.

The Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City folded on its poker room in February of 2015, but insisted at the time it would eventually buy back into the game. The Boardwalk resort said it was simply renovating the space, hoping to ultimately turn around lackluster revenues. Word was that cards would be back in the air that July.

Trump Taj Mahal poker room reopening
The once-iconic Trump Taj Mahal poker room is back open for business, but with the Borgata dominating the market in the area, the Boardwalk resort will need to find creative ways to entice players back from the marina area. (Image:

But that never happened. Instead, the Taj initiated bankruptcy proceedings before being sold to billionaire investor Carl Icahn.

Now, 15 months later, live poker is once again being played at the Trump Taj Mahal. A prominent character in the iconic poker film “Rounders,” starring Matt Damon and Edward Norton, having the Taj poker room back is a positive sign for Atlantic City’s slow and painful resurgence.

Following the US financial crisis in 2007-08, as well as the reality of neighboring states expanding land-based gambling laws, four casinos in Atlantic City closed their doors in 2004, bringing the total number of gaming venues down to eight. After months of sliding revenues, the resort town’s casinos posted a gain of more than eight percent in April, and marked the region’s highest cumulative monthly income total for 2016 so far.

Disappointing Numbers

Unfortunately for Icahn’s team, the Taj’s poker return now finds the majority of tables not along the Boardwalk, but out at the marina casinos.

On Saturday, May 13, which was the soft reopening of the Taj Mahal’s poker room, activity was relatively light for what was hoped to be a more celebratory affair. Less than a half-dozen of the room’s 25 tables were active during the afternoon.

Taj management hopes the refurbished area, which is located just inside the resort’s main entrance, will slowly bring players back from the marina to the oceanfront resorts.

There are now six rooms and 224 dedicated poker tables in Atlantic City, but the majority of felt is located at the Borgata and Harrah’s Atlantic City in the town’s marina district.

More Swagger Needed

A recent visit by a staffer witnessed firsthand just how serious the economic downturn in Atlantic City has impacted Boardwalk casinos.

Finding a midday poker game on a Saturday was difficult, the longtime bartender who has spent the last two decades at the Taj saying it pains him each day to see the casino floor so barren, but he remains grateful to still be employed.

Icahn at least deserves credit for saving that job, as the resort was likely going to close if he hadn’t saved the property from bankruptcy last spring.

The quirky billionaire had planned to dump $100 million into renovating the aging hotel, but has since threatened to cancel those plans if a referendum to license casinos in northern parts of New Jersey is approved this November.

The Taj poker room makeover now comes with a fresh look and is equipped with over a dozen large flat screen televisions, but compared to the Borgata room, the space still leaves a lot to be desired.

The reopening promotions won’t have many scrambling to the Taj, unfortunately. Players who compete for at least two hours get their pick of a Taj poker hat or t-shirt, and five 32″ televisions will be randomly given to “lucky seat” winners during the Grand Opening Celebration this weekend on May 20.