Preliminary approval for $5.6 million grant has been given to billionaire businessman Carl Icahn (pictured) by a New Jersey redevelopment agency to help cover a portion of the demolition cost of the shuttered Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, according to the Associated Press.
Icahn’s request was reportedly determined on Tuesday by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority that the use of monies from the Investment Alternative Tax (IAT) fund towards the $13.2 million cost of the demolition would, pending final determination, qualify for assistance.
Icahn is the founder of Icahn Capital Management and according to Forbes, is “one of Wall Streets most successful investors” with a real-time net worth of $16.6 billion as of Nov. 23, 2017.
Nick Talvacchia, an attorney for Icahn, reportedly said that a bridge and one of a pair of hotel towers would be leveled. Officials from the Authority say the razing will make new development possible at the heart of the iconic resort city, however, according to the report, there has been no offer for specific proposals.
Talvacchia said, “You’re taking down a building seen as a potential impediment for future development.”
The issues is the IAT, a state-mandated casino investment alternative tax which levies a 1.25 percent tax on the annual gross gaming revenue of each Atlantic City casino in addition to an 8 percent state tax on revenue from gambling that they are required to pay. Typically, IAT monies were used to help fund redevelopment projects in the Boardwalk city, but for years have reportedly been used on projects throughout New Jersey.
Under the current state takeover regulations, the funds are reportedly redirected to the resort city to aid in paying down its significant debt. However, monies paid by the city’s casinos prior to the change are reportedly still eligible for use toward projects deemed to be of benefit to the city.
The property is located on prime Boardwalk acreage at the end of the main entranceway to the city, the Atlantic City Expressway.
The Associated Press reports that Robert Mulcahy III, chairman of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, said Icahn’s request is worthwhile as it could mean millions of dollars in new development while at the same time remove an unproductive eyesore.
“We all feel the demolition of this tower is in the best interest of Atlantic City,” Mulcahy said. “It’s part of the gateway into the city. That land could be very valuable.”
Voting against the refund to Icahn was Mayor Don Guardian who is a member of the Authority’s 17-person board and in January will be vacating the mayor’s office in January after Atlantic City councilman Frank Gilliam defeated the incumbent Republican at the polls earlier this month. Kevin Ortzman, who has been with Caesars Entertainment for 13 years and in July this year was named regional president of all the Caesars Atlantic City casinos, also voted against Icahn’s request.
“I agree this project needs to come down,” said Mayor Guardian. “But why are they asking us for $5.6 million? You’re already responsible for the project closing and the loss of jobs and the suffering the city has gone through.”
A final determination as to whether or not the request will be granted will be decided by the agency after a hearing is held to examine the benefits of Icahn’s request.
Trump Plaza opened as Harrah’s at Trump Plaza in 1984 by then-owner and now president Donald J. Trump. After buying debt in the casinos’ then-bankrupt parent, Trump Entertainment Resorts, in February 2016, Icahn took control of the Trump Plaza and sister property Trump Taj Mahal. The Trump Plaza closed for good on September 16, 2014, and on October 10, 2016, Icahn closed Trump Taj Majal making it the fifth Atlantic City casino to go out of business since 2014.