The most beautiful, fantastic, stupendous casino chain in the world -- as Donald Trump might describe it -- could be in danger of crapping out.
In a regulatory filing Tuesday, the auditor of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Inc. said a heap of debt had made it difficult for the company to remodel its casinos and woo more gamblers. Those conditions "raise substantial doubt about the company's ability to continue as a going concern," Ernst & Young said.
Trump Hotels, which isn't related to Trump's New York real estate business, has lost money for eight years, including an $87.3-million spanking in 2003.
The Atlantic City, N.J., company is trying to complete a recapitalization by mid-summer that would allow it to upgrade and expand, said Scott Butera, a Trump Hotels executive vice president. The key: An affiliate of Credit Suisse First Boston would invest $400 million in the company but only if bondholders accept less than face value for $1.8 billion in debt they hold.
"Hopefully, the plan will resolve a lot of issues raised" by the auditors, Butera said.
For all of Trump Hotels' troubles, the 57-year-old mogul himself has been enjoying a winning streak on his NBC TV reality series "The Apprentice."
The top 10 show -- which pits job applicants against one another for a chance to work for Trump -- unfolded last week at the flagship Trump Taj Mahal and set a series record of nearly 23 million viewers.
Given that, Trump Hotels' financial woes are "not an issue for us," said Jeff Zucker, president of NBC's Entertainment, News and Cable Group.