Tag Archives: taj mahal

Trump Taj Mahal casino on verge of bankruptcy

 

A strike against Atlantic City’s most vulnerable casino on the biggest moneymaking weekend of the year raised fresh questions about the future of the Trump Taj Mahal.

Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union went on strike Friday against the casino, which was opened in 1990 by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump but now belongs to a different billionaire, Carl Icahn.

Icahn’s management team said the union seems “hell-bent on trying to close this property” and pointed out that he has spent $86 million keeping the Taj Mahal alive through bankruptcy and $150 million more improving the Tropicana, which he also owns.

The Taj Mahal, which remains open and was to host a concert by the hair metal band Whitesnake on Friday night, ranks next to last in Atlantic City in terms of the amount of money it wins from gamblers each month. It narrowly escaped closing during its most recent turn through bankruptcy court.

The union called the strike after being unable to agree on a contract that restored health care and pension benefits that a bankruptcy judge terminated in October 2014. It reached new contracts June 30 with four of the five casinos it had targeted: Bally’s, Caesars, Harrah’s and the Tropicana.

“All we want is a fair contract,” said Pete Battaglini, a bellman at the Taj Mahal. “We just want what everybody else in the city has. We’re not asking for the moon, just the same.”

Battaglini said paying for health insurance on his own through the Affordable Care Act has left him in dire financial straits.

“I have two daughters in college that I’m paying for, and having to pay for my own health insurance, it’s draining,” he said. “You have to make choices: Do I pay the bills this month, the health insurance premium or the tuition? It has totally changed my life.”

He was one of about 1,000 members who began walking off the job at 6 a.m., joining fellow union members in protest on the Boardwalk. The striking workers include those who serve drinks, cook food, carry luggage and clean hotel rooms. Dealers and security personnel are not included in the walkout.

Contract talks broke off early Friday, and union president Bob McDevitt said no further talks are scheduled.

“Workers in Atlantic City understand that there was a social compact in 1976 when gaming was first approved for Atlantic City: We will give you a license to make money, but the jobs have to be good, middle-class jobs,” he said. “At the Taj Mahal, they’re poverty level.”

He noted that the Tropicana settled its contract June 30.

“It’s telling that workers at the Trop are elated, and their co-workers at the Taj Mahal are on strike today,” he said. “I don’t understand why they do this.”

Tony Rodio, the Tropicana’s president who also runs the Taj Mahal, said casino ownership “presented good-faith, concrete progressive proposals” in an effort to restore some employee benefits, but union negotiators rejected them.

“They are hurting their own and everybody else during the busiest time of the year,” Rodio said.

The casino pressed management into service, performing work that striking union members had done, including handling luggage at the hotel desk. Alan Rivin, the casino’s general manager, said the Taj Mahal “is open for business and fully functional,” ready to serve guests through the busy July Fourth weekend.

The bankruptcy filing and the benefit terminations at the Taj Mahal happened five years after Trump relinquished control of the casino and its parent company, Trump Entertainment Resorts.

Aside from a 10 percent stake in the company for the use of his name that was wiped out in bankruptcy, Trump has had no involvement with the company since 2009.

The last time Local 54 waged a strike, in 2004, the walkout lasted 34 days.

Thai mega mall top location on Instagram in 2013

Sure, the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal and the Grand Canyon have inspired many photographs. But a shopping mall in Bangkok has claimed this year’s crown as the world’s most photographed location on Instagram.

In its Top 10 year-end list, the photo-sharing app dubbed Siam Paragon as the planet’s most “Instagrammed” spot in 2013. It edged out No. 2 Times Square and No. 3 Disneyland in California on the list that also includes New York’s Central Park and Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

Paris’ iconic steel tower got bumped off the list. And if Siam Paragon seems like an improbable winner consider this: last year’s most “Instagrammed” place was again from Thailand – Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, which this year was at No. 9.

Instagram spokeswoman Tiffany Testo said in an email response that the California-based company does not release data on how many pictures were taken.

The luxury mall in the heart of Bangkok is not exactly a world-famous landmark. Sightseeing visitors to the city typically head first to the majestic Grand Palace or take in the serenity of Buddhist temples like Wat Pho. The mall is a trendy meeting place in Bangkok that claims to have more than 100,000 visitors a day. But why is it so avidly photographed?

“All the celebrities come here and post photos of themselves,” said Sayamon Srichai, a 33-year-old Bangkok office worker walking past Paragon’s tropical Christmas garden with an outstretched arm as she smiled for her smartphone. “Regular people like me want to walk in their footsteps.”

Thailand has long been called the Land of Smiles, but it could also be called the Land of Selfies. Thais love taking pictures of themselves, documenting their daily activities and uploading the images instantly so friends know what they’re up to. The Southeast Asian country is also one world’s biggest users of social media, which could explain why a building that may not be the most photographed in the world still ends up as the most visible on Instagram.

“Taking Instagram pictures is sort of like a daily ritual,” said Jitlada Mahan, 18, another shopper posing for her phone outside the sprawling five-floor complex. “This is how I communicate with my friends. Now they know where to find me.”

Combine that passion with Thailand’s love of shopping malls, which offer air-conditioned refuge from the steamy outdoors, and the photo ops are endless.

Many shoppers treat Paragon like their personal catwalk: Visitors pose for pictures everywhere – at the aquarium, at the cineplex, the bowling alley, the outdoor Christmas garden and inside its hundreds of shops and restaurants.

Diners in the food court pause before eating to photograph their food

“I take photos of food here all the time. Almost every day,” said Jirathip Khajonkulvanich, an 18-year-old student who has 1,035 Instagram followers and has learned how to boost her online popularity. “When you take photos of food, people press `like’ more than with other pictures.”

Jirathip was having lunch with a group of fellow students from Chulalongkorn University, one of the country’s most prestigious and a short walk away from the mega mall.

Historical sites can’t compete when it comes to uploads, said one of the students, Suthasinee Tilokruanochai, who said her friends upload multiple pictures from every visit to the shopping mall.

“If you go to the Eiffel Tower, you go once. You take a picture and you leave,” said Suthasinee, a 22-year-old engineering student. “We come here every day after school.”