ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - A fundraising auction that would have granted someone the opportunity to press the button that will bring down one of President Donald Trump's former Atlantic City casinos has been scrapped after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from conservative billionaire Carl Icahn.
The demolition of the former Trump Plaza casino recently became a fundraiser to benefit the Boy's & Girls Club of Atlantic City. Mayor Marty Small had hoped the fundraiser would raise more than $1 million.
Icahn told The Associated Press his philanthropic arm will donate $175,000 to the Boys and Girls Club of Atlantic City to replace money that would have been raised by a charity auction of the right to press the button to demolish the former Trump Plaza casino.
He owns the former casino, which has been in the process of demolition for months.
Icahn’s decision came shortly after Bodnar’s Auction canceled its solicitation of bids, citing a letter from Icahn’s company instructing it not to proceed with the auction because it considered the public "spectacle" to be a safety risk, with the possibility of flying debris injuring the person pressing the demolition button, or others gathered nearby.
"From the beginning, we thought the auction and any other related spectacle presented a safety risk, and we were always clear that we would not participate in any way," a spokesman for Icahn said in a statement.
The high bid was at $175,000 at the time the auction was ended, according to the Bodnars Auction website.
Opened in 1984, Trump's former casino was closed in 2014 and has fallen into such a state of disrepair that demolition work began earlier in 2020. The remainder of the structure was scheduled to be dynamited on Jan. 29. Mayor Small is expected to announce a new date later this week.
The Boys & Girls Club had hired Bodnars Auction to solicit bids from Thursday through Jan. 19, when the top bids were to be revealed and a live auction would have determined a winner.
The organization provides after-school and summer recreation, education, and career-training programs for Atlantic City children and teens.
Trump, then a real-estate developer, opened the casino in a prime spot at the center of Atlantic City’s Boardwalk where the Atlantic City Expressway deposited cars entering the resort. It was the site of many high-profile boxing matches, which Trump would regularly attend.
It closed in 2014, one of four Atlantic City casinos to shut down that year, followed by another former Trump casino, the Taj Mahal, in 2016. That property has since reopened as the Hard Rock casino.
The third casino Trump used to own there, Trump Marina, was sold to Texas billionaire Tilman Fertitta in 2011 and is now the Golden Nugget.
Trump cut most ties with Atlantic City in 2009 aside from a 10% fee for the use of his name on what were then three casinos in the city. That stake was extinguished when billionaire Carl Icahn took ownership of the company out of bankruptcy court in February 2016.
Trump Plaza has sat empty for six years, and has been deteriorating. Earlier this year, large pieces of the facade broke loose from one of the hotel towers and came crashing to the ground. In one storm, additional debris fell from the structure onto the Boardwalk.
Icahn owns the former Trump Plaza building and had agreed to the demolition. Small said he is eager to discuss potential uses for the land with Icahn once the casino is gone, including some sort of family attraction.
The last casino implosion in Atlantic City was in Oct. 2007 when the former Sands casino was dynamited to make way for a new casino-hotel project that ultimately was never built.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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