A Homeowner’s Refusal to Cash Out in a Gambling Town Proves Costly

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ATLANTIC CITY, NJ (The New York Times) — On July 31, the property, at 1237 South Columbia Place, will go up for auction. The reserve price, or the lowest the seller will accept, is $199,000, but brokers insist it will go for more. As recently as eight years ago, Donald Trump was willing to pay at least 10 times that amount so he could expand Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino. In the 1980s, Bob Guccione, the publisher of Penthouse, also made offers in the seven figures to clear the way for a casino of his own. But those offers, along with threats of eminent domain that turned her briefly into a national hero, were never enough to force Vera Coking out of the summertime retreat she and her husband, Raymond, bought for $20,000 in 1961. Now, as Atlantic City teeters under the weight of all of its opulence, Ms. Coking and her family may have lost their shot at a big payout.

When she refused Mr. Trump’s initial offers, the city’s Casino Reinvestment Development Authority became involved in 1996 and a three-year eminent domain saga ensued, pitting Mr. Trump against a woman who proved as feisty as he was. The city assessed the value of the property at only $251,000, but it never got the chance to seize it. Along with two other holdouts, a pawnshop and an Italian restaurant called Sabatini’s, Ms. Coking prevailed in State Supreme Court, which ruled the city had no right to take the properties for the purported public use of a new casino.

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