Better Than Its Reputation
I recently had the opportunity to visit the Trump Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City from the dates of 6/13/16-6/15/16 during which time I found the property to be much better than its reputation would suggest. As many of the readers out there know, as of the time of this writing, Trump Taj Mahal has long been one of (if not the) lowest grossing casinos in Atlantic City, and furthermore, there have been multiple occasions over the last several years in which there was some question as to whether or not the property would even remain open.
In fact, one of the more recent ordeals experienced by the casino was a labor dispute in which Carl Icahn, seeking to take full ownership of the property (which he ended up doing) sought to eliminate the health and pension benefits of over 1,100 unionized employees in order to enable the casino to remain viable. As mentioned, Icahn did eventually end up acquiring full ownership of the property and has sworn to reinvest about twenty million dollars in the property in the near future, it was actually going to be more than that, but he’s in something of a, ‘Wait and see,’ mode when it comes to a November vote to allow for casinos in Northern New Jersey. In the event that this vote passes, when those casinos are built, it could spell the end for the Taj Mahal.
Having not visited Atlantic City in several years, but aware of this information, I would be remiss not to suggest that I experienced some trepidation about my upcoming stay at the Trump Taj Mahal, but as it turns out, the property was more than fine in my opinion.
The process of checking in was relatively easy, and thanks to a friend of mine, I was able to have a suite in the Chairman’s Tower, so with that, please do not take this review to suggest that all of the rooms will necessarily reflect the same experience that I had with the property...at least, as far as the room quality is concerned. The only problem with checking in was that they are supposed to take an authorization for $35 per night that you are staying plus $14 for...I don’t really know what...but somehow this authorization ended up getting doubled to $70 for each night plus the $14. When we checked out (we only had to pay resort fees) the resort fee charge of $15/night was correct, although, we got two receipts...one in my name and one in my girlfriend’s name. I was kind of concerned that would mean we would end up paying double the resort fees, but that didn’t end up happening, whether or not that had something to do with all of the nightly authorizations being effectively doubled, I have no idea.
We checked in and were given a room on the 67th Floor, which is actually probably something like nine or ten stories up. In any event, I originally thought that we had a suite, but after a perusal of the Taj Mahal website, I believe that we were actually just in a regular Chairman Tower room. In any event, the room was pretty spectacular. Not only was the cleanliness of the room immaculate, but the room also featured a King Bed with a super-soft Simmons mattress that absolutely enveloped me when I laid on it. Actually, I guess I shouldn’t say, ‘Immaculately clean,’ but there was only one aspect that made it less than 100% clean which is that the top blanket was clearly pretty dated and had a couple small marks on it that had clearly been there for awhile but remained after washing. If it were me making a judgment call as to whether or not to keep that particular blanket, I would either get rid of it or put it in one of the lesser rooms.
Beyond that, everything else in the room was pretty terrific. One downside is the fact that the guest had to pay for Wi-Fi even if the room was comped, but again, that’s somewhat understandable for a casino-hotel because they really don’t want you to be hanging out in your room surfing the Internet all day, and if you do, it’s not entirely unreasonable that they might want to make something off of you doing that. In addition to the King Bed, the room also featured what I would consider a full closet, a large desk with two armchairs, an HDTV that I would put at about 40 inches (at a guess) as well as a comfortable armchair with a large ottoman that was effectively a chaise lounger combined.
With respect to the bathroom, the Chairman Room featured a double marble sink with ample space between the two sinks such that two people could easily do what they had to do to get ready. Furthermore, the room featured a walk-in shower with ample water pressure, definitely suitable water temperature, and an adjustable showerhead capable of several settings. Ultimately, the Trump Taj Mahal is definitely one of the best hotel rooms that I have ever stayed in for a casino easily trumping (sorry) the Ritz-Carlton at the JACK (formerly Horseshoe) Cleveland and other rooms including Rocky Gap Casino and Resort in Maryland and any place that I have ever stayed in Vegas (The D, Four Queens, Cannery, Downtown Grand) by far. With that said, I do have to give The D a quick shout out for having the best overall staff of any PLACE (not just casinos) that I have ever been and Downtown Grand for having the most immaculate room I have ever seen.
There is not much I can say about the pool, because unfortunately, our itinerary was such that we didn’t have much time to avail ourselves of it, and beyond that, my girlfriend forgot to pack her bathing suit. However, I did have a minute just to take a quick look at it and it is fairly large with a nice skylight and is surrounded with a bunch of chaise pool lounge chairs. I really wish I had the time to enjoy a dip in the pool, but maybe next time. If I did have time to swim, I would probably just hit the ocean (during the Summer months) anyway, but the indoor pool is certainly a great Winter amenity. The Taj Mahal also features an exercise facility and Spa, but I didn’t really have the time to check that area out at all.
While we stayed there for a few days, the only time I had to really spend a good bit of time on the gambling floor was the first night, and late, at that. In any event, cocktail service was initially slow, but then they seemed to come around in a more timely fashion when they knew they were going to get tipped. In each section of the casino that I visited, the first drink definitely took the longest to get.
The layout of the casino is initially somewhat confusing until one gives it the once-around, and then at that point, one realizes that it is pretty close to just being a big circle with a few small offshoots. On the first night (technically Tuesday early a.m.) the casino was surprisingly dead as I would surmise a guess that about 1:00a.m., there were perhaps 50-100 machine players and probably fewer than twenty guests playing Table Games. I walked by the tables on a few occasions and they had Blackjack and Craps going for as low as $5, but in one of the stranger things that I have ever seen, Roulette was at a $15 minimum for both tables that were open at the time. That might be one of the first occasions that I have seen Roulette at what I would call a substantially greater minimum (effectively three bets to one) than Craps.
In any case, the only other table that appeared to be open at that time was a $5 Three Card Poker table, but I also noticed that there were tables for Texas Hold ‘Em Bonus, Let it Ride, Pai-Gow Poker, Big 6, Three Card Poker and a few other games, though nothing other than the Craps, Three-Card, Roulette and Blackjack were open at this time.
One of the more bizarre things that happened while I was there is that there was a cocktail waitress that kept referring to me as, ‘Daddy,’ every time she brought me a drink. I get that she was being flirtatious and trying to flatter me given that I was her customer, but the choice to say, ‘Thanks, Daddy,’ in a sultry whisper just because I tipped her a dollar was borderline creepy. The other cocktail waitresses either did not assign a noun to me at all or went with the more standard, ‘Thanks, Hun,’ which really seems a lot more folksy than, ‘Daddy.’
The Video Poker offerings were more than sufficient, but there were perhaps not as many as were available at the Golden Nugget (where I didn’t stay) and the Video Poker seemed kind of spread throughout the overall casino more rather than relegated to particular areas as it was at the Golden Nugget. In any case, there were many Video Poker staples available such as Ultimate X, Super Times Pay, Quick Quads, Triple Play and a number of other novelty Video Poker games. They also had some novelty single-line games at multiple denominations such as Blackjack Poker, and one of the better VP offerings that I found at the $1 denomination (that I didn’t really play too much) was 9/6 Jacks or Better. Another game that I noticed and did not play was Match Card Video Poker.
One game that I found that is apparently a fairly old game (but new to me) was Double Down Stud Poker which is a simple Video Poker Variant in which the player is playing Five Card Stud (this version was 6’s or Better) and the player receives four cards and decides whether to double his/her bet or just draw the fifth card. The strategy for the game is ridiculously simple, you will double down on winning hands as well as hands that have a positive Expected Value on the draw. I must have ran fairly well to play this game for over an hour to break even because I was told that the Variance will, ‘Carve you up,’ on this game. In any event, I did not analyze the overall return of the game, but if you are having a few drinks, this game is probably not a terrible choice (if you don’t mind the Variance) because it is ludicrously simple.
In terms of the slot offerings, I generally do not play slots unless they are positive EV or my girlfriend really wants to for a little bit, and this visit was no exception. However, one thing that I did notice is that there are several newer slot titles that I have seen even at locals casinos that do not seem to be available at Trump Taj Mahal. In fact, I would suggest that the vast majority of the slot machines on the floor have been out for two years or more with very few of the Quick Hits variations that I have seen in Locals Casinos all over the place.
Another thing that I will say about the Taj is that the valet parking is pretty convenient and on only one occasion was there more than a two minute wait to get the car back, and that was on the day that we checked out.
There is one thing that surprised me about the Taj and it is something that players should keep in mind before plopping down and playing a Video Poker game at the bar, at the bar you must pay for your drinks even if you are playing a Video Poker game! Fortunately, just as I had placed my order and was about to stick a bill into the machine, the bartender made sure I knew that I would have to pay for the drink ($18 for a double rum and coke!) even if I was playing. He informed me that they only way drinks are free is if one obtains them from a cocktail waitress while playing on the floor.
Trump Taj Mahal has a wide variety of dining options available which can be found here:
Unfortunately, my schedule was not conducive to visiting the Chairman’s Club or enjoying any of the dining options with exception to White House Subs, which is apparently quite a famous sub place, and that was pretty good. Based on the availability of many different kinds of restaurants at the property and my more than acceptable experience with White House, I’m going to go ahead and give the property a strong score for its food offerings.
I did not spend any time actually playing Table Games, but I did stand around and watch the Craps Table for a little bit and considered buying in, but changed my mind.
Ultimately, if the goal of the property was to leave me wanting to come back to experience more of the restaurants and amenities (as well as more of the gambling floor) than they can consider their mission successful! I should also include that one of the Craps dealers said that the minimums are often $10 even that time of night even though they happened to be $5 at the time that I was watching the table.
In any event, I thoroughly enjoyed my stay there from one of the better casino-hotel rooms that I have experienced all the way to the 1980’s-opulent overall look of the property. In terms of the aesthetics, the property is definitely somewhat dated, however, it’s right along the lines of the kind of style that I cannot help but to appreciate. Much of the property looks like a ballroom of sorts, just one from a few decades ago...It kind of reminds me of an older James Bond movie in some ways.
Anyway, given my schedule for this trip, I was not really able to, ‘Leave no stone unturned,’ and I plan to uncover a few rocks on a future visit. There is absolutely no question that, not only would I return to this property, but it would be among my first one or two choices in Atlantic City.
The only downside that I would be remiss not to mention is something that is not necessarily the fault of the Taj (or any of the other similarly situated Atlantic City casinos) and that is that the surrounding neighborhood is less than ideal. Quite frankly, after driving around Atlantic City a bunch over the past few days, I would say that I would only be comfortable walking around about 25% of it in broad daylight (and I’m a big guy who can physically handle his business, if necessary) and I would feel comfortable walking around exactly 0% of the city after dark. The result of this, of course, is that you will need to drive to just about anywhere else you might want to go from the Taj, but then, the casinos in Atlantic City are much more spread out than those in Las Vegas (for those of you used to visiting LV) and it really doesn’t seem to be much of a walking town.
If you are travelling with children, (as I will be on my next trip to Atlantic City) and you intend to visit the Atlantic Ocean and Boardwalk area, then I would strongly suggest a casino-hotel such as the Tropicana that enables one to walk right out of the property onto the beach, furthermore, that property is designed in such a way that most of the stores and restaurants are accessible without having to go anywhere particularly near the casino floor whereas, with the Trump, the casino floor is pretty front and center to everything else.
I’m not suggesting that the Trump would be a bad place to travel if you have kids in tow, the property has combination of eateries and other amenities (in addition to the casino) that makes it a reasonably fun choice for kids, I’m simply suggesting that if you want a location that seems safer (in my opinion) and you want ocean-access and a reduced need to travel, then Tropicana would be the superior option.
With that, I’m going to break down my scores as follows:
Customer Service 8
-Overall, the customer service at the Trump Taj Mahal was pretty good and everyone was both prompt and courteous for the most part. Aside from the fact that the cocktail waitress constantly referring to me as, ‘Daddy,’ was a little bizarre and the fact that Player Services people (as with most casinos) really don’t seem to be able to answer questions effectively or in consistent ways (getting different answers from different people to the same question) the customer service at the Trump Taj Mahal was more than acceptable.
Furthermore, the over-authorizations on the card for the incidentals were a bit annoying, but even though they essentially doubled what they said the authorizations would be for each night, the final charges for the resort fees ended up being correct. I also offset this difficulty by taking into consideration that many properties have daily authorizations in excess of even the double that my card was authorized for during my stay, so it is difficult to mount a serious complaint in this regard.
Again, please do not take this score as an endorsement of dining experiences at the property because my only actual experience was at White House Subs. The rest of this score is predicated entirely upon what I know to be available there even though I did not actually eat at any of the establishments.
In terms of beverages, I will say that the drinks there are made stronger (limited sample size) than those at the Golden Nugget and those of most of the casinos in Vegas. In fact, while I cannot absolutely guarantee it, I would suggest that the Trump Taj Mahal served me the strongest free drinks of any place I have ever been...that’s a plus in my book!
My overall experience with the casino floor was more than adequate and I certainly appreciated the smorgasbord of Video Poker offerings as well as the presence of strong pay tables on some of the games that I noticed. One aspect of the casino that prevents this area from getting a better score is that there are any number of new slot machines that I could name (even though I play -EV slots very infrequently) that could not be found at this property. Beyond that, I found the $15 minimums on Roulette to be truly bizarre.
I am definitely going to give my hotel room a strong score here as my only nitpicky issue would have been the dated top blanket on the bed that I would be inclined to get rid of (or move to a lesser room) if I were in charge of the housekeeping at the property. Aside from that, the room was truly pretty immaculate and I have no idea why the property does not have a better reputation not just in this regard, but overall.
Overall, I would give this property a score of 8.25, but that might be subject to change after I update this Review next time I stay at the property. Given my hectic schedule during my brief stay at the property, I did not really get to experience as many of the amenities and dining selections as I otherwise would have liked. However, I cannot stress enough that the property absolutely made me want to come back!
Resort and Parking Fees