ATLANTIC CITY, AUG. 21 -- Hoping to avert a "total collapse" of Donald Trump's real estate empire, New Jersey gaming regulators today approved a bailout plan that will give the developer some breathing room as he attempts to salvage his tottering portfolio of casinos, hotels and airplanes.

The unanimous ruling by the five-member New Jersey Casino Control Commission allows Trump to use his three casinos as collateral in return for a $65 million emergency loan from his bankers.

Although the loan will help stave off any immediate crisis, banking officials and regulators warned today that Trump is far from home free. Rather, they see the fresh cash as a way of preventing any immediate sale of his assets. In today's sluggish real estate market, the properties -- including three Atlantic City casinos, the Trump Plaza and Fifth Avenue's Trump Tower -- are unlikely to fetch an attractive price.

"Nobody wants fire-sale type prices," said one banking source who asked not to be identified. "This is expected to contribute more to an orderly liquidation than to a disorderly liquidation. If he makes it, so much the better, but there's not much hope for that."

The $65 million is part of a broader restructuring package that Trump will use to ease a cash crunch that had threatened to force him to default on debt payments or put some properties into bankruptcy. The goal of the bailout is to give Trump five years both to get his own business operations in order by cutting expenses and to try to outlast the economic downturn, especially in real estate, that plagues the Northeast, bankers close to the deal said.

The plan calls for no immediate sale of Trump properties, although if a buyer for any assets comes forward with a good price, "we'd want to hear what they have to say," said one banking source.

"Despite the economy, the {rescue} plan gives the Trump Organization great strength," Trump said after the ruling.

But bankers and New Jersey state gaming officials were less optimistic.

"I do not view this restructuring as the total solution to the financial problem of the Trump Organization," said Acting Casino Commission Chairman Valerie Armstrong, in her statement recommending approval fo the plan. "This is obviously a situation in which there are no good answers for Mr. Trump or for New Jersey."

The commission had to vote on the restructuring because it has to approve any potential owners of casinos, which the banks would become if Trump the developer does not survive.

The next "litmus" test Trump faces, according to Thomas Auriemma, deputy attorney general in the state Division of Gaming Enforcement, is with bondholders, who hold $1 billion in debt on Trump's casinos.

Failure to reach a restructuring agreement with the bondholders could force Trump to put one or more of his casinos into bankruptcy, he said.

The next critical date for Trump is in November, when $47 million in payments come due to bondholders for the Taj Mahal casino, the glitzy gambling house that Trump opened in April but that is failing to generate sufficient cash to make it profitable.

The state casino commission has set a deadline of three weeks for Trump to come up with a plan for making the bond payments. The commission has also scheduled hearings in October to review Trump's qualification to hold gambling licenses for his three casinos.

Auriemma said the state has been warning casino owners like Trump for years that they were in over their heads with debt. Given that position, he said, the state only "reluctantly" decided to allow Trump to amass new debt.

He said the commission's decision to let Trump buy time was better for the "financial stability" of the state's casino industry than to allow a "total collapse" of Trump's empire. "But this is really just the beginning of Mr. Trump's trying to solve his problems," Auriemma said of the restructuring package. "This is the lesser of two evils."

No one doubts Trump is having serious trouble. His own financial consultants, Kenneth Leventhal & Co., said his obligations would exceed his assets by nearly $300 million if he were forced to sell his properties today to pay his debts.

Additionally, New Jersey officials have calculated that Trump in the next few months will spend as much as $18 million a month more than he's taking in, a hemorrhaging that is expected to leave him with a cash deficit of nearly $70 million by early next year.

Even Fortune magazine said its calculations show that Trump's financial status is so bleak he no longer qualifies to be included in its annual listing of the world's billionaires.

Bankers today said they had overcome earlier disputes among some participants and said they expect the final documents sealing the rescue package to be fully completed and signed as early as this morning. They said the only holdup was the mechanical difficulty of getting signatures on several thousand pages of documents and then faxing them among all the institutions involved.

Trump, dressed in a dark suit and blue and white striped shirt, sat quietly, lips pursed and brow knitted, as Armstrong went through a list of the pros and cons of the restructuring plan. Afterward, hailing the vote as "a great success," Trump pushed through the thicket of television cameras to make a quick getaway, turning to say "Good luck, everyone," before disappearing into a waiting car.