ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- The growing pile of unpaid bills at Donald Trump's Taj Mahal Casino Resort is approaching $90 million just 14 weeks after it opened, prompting lawsuits, growing uncertainty among employees and concern by regulators.
Most of the money is owed to contractors on the unfinished building, according to contractors, regulators and Trump executives. An attorney for one contractor said that a total of $72.8 million was owed to all firms that worked on the construction and that Trump had proposed paying these bills off over five years.
Vendors of supplies are owed as much as $15 million, according to Trump insiders. This money is a separate issue from construction costs, Trump aides said..
About 70 contractors will meet Tuesday to discuss whether to continue negotiations with Trump or to file suit to collect money owed them, in some cases for work dating to February, according to some of those organizing the meeting. Two small contractors and one materials supplier are near bankruptcy because of the unpaid bills, according to other contractors who said their businesses also are hurting.
On Friday, as the four largest contractors met with Trump's representatives to negotiate payments on their bills, another firm filed suit. Central Metals Inc. of Camden, N.J., alleged in state Superior Court that Trump has failed to pay $1.6 million on a contract of nearly $5 million for ornamental and other metal work.
A roofer and a company that made the Taj's minarets had gone to court earlier to seek payment.
Meanwhile, the volume of gambling at the Taj continues at a record pace for Atlantic City, but not a big enough record for the three-acre casino to break even. Less-than-expected play at the slot machines and too many wins by blackjack and baccarat players are largely responsible for the problem.
In addition, Merv Griffin's Resorts Casino Hotel next door appears to be drawing away some business with a $4.99 meal, and the Showboat Hotel & Casino seems to be taking away some Taj slot machine players by giving better paybacks.
Meanwhile, Trump continues to cut costs. The Taj has already eliminated the equivalent of 1,000 full-time jobs, and more cuts in its 6,000-member work force are expected.
While the smaller contractors will meet Tuesday to discuss the more than $40 million that Trump owes them, they have yet to agree on a strategy for extracting payment. Some of them said they favor suing Trump; one said he wants to see the Taj, and Trump, forced into bankruptcy.