Lawmakers Approve NJ Casino Bill Aimed At Preventing Icahn From Re-opening The Taj Mahal

Corey Goldberg Updated on December 28, 2016
NJ bill Carl Icahn Taj Mahal casino
On Oct. 10, 2016, Carl Icahn, owner of the Trump Taj Mahal (also the Tropicana), closed the casino after management was unable to negotiate terms with the local chapter of a union that had gone on strike while seeking better healthcare and benefits.

The standoff with the Local 54 of UNITE HERE culminated in the closure of the Trump Taj Mahal and marked the fifth Atlantic City casino closure since 2014.

As a result of the closure, more than 3,000 employees lost their jobs and Atlantic City’s finances took another hard-to-handle blow.

Bob McDevitt, the president of the Local 54 Union, believed that Icahn was intending to keep the casino closed for a small duration of time and that he planned to reopen with non-union affiliated employees.

Is this legal in New Jersey?

Under current gaming laws in NJ, when a casino is shut down the owner of the casino is not required to surrender their casino license. And although Icahn has made no mention of reopening the Trump Taj Mahal, his ability to do so has always been on the table.

In fact, there is no deadline that requires the owner of a closed casino to surrender the casino license at all.

New casino bill in NJ aimed at circumventing Icahn

Senate Bill 2575, specifically designed to block Icahn from reopening a casino in Atlantic City, was recently introduced by Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney. The bill is phrased in such a way that it is obvious that the intention behind the bill is to prevent Icahn, and Icahn alone, from maintaining licensure.

According to the Associated Press, Sweeney has stated that he introduced new legislation to prevent casino owners from closing and then holding on to their licenses indefinitely.

The language of the bill states that casino owners who have closed their casinos since January 2016 will have their licenses suspended for a period of five years. The only casino that falls into this category is the Trump Taj Mahal.

The other four casinos that have shut down since 2014 would not be affected by this new legislation.

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Why block Icahn from reopening the Taj?

Many New Jersey Assemblymen, including Democratic Assemblyman John Burzichelli, believe that this new bill will dissuade other casino owners from attempting to manipulate Atlantic City’s licensing system.

“At the end of the day,” Burzichelli said in a statement to the Associated Press, “this is designed to be a carrot, not a stick, by encouraging casino owners to remain open, rather than allowing them to hold onto their license while they shut down and leave thousands of working-class folks without a job.”

Bill heads to Chris Christie’s desk

The NJ Assembly has already cast its votes in favor of the bill by a 60-17 margin, but it remains to be seen whether or not Governor Chris Christie will sign it into law.

To date, Christie has not commented on whether he favors the bill or opposes it, but the state senate gave it final approval last October.

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