Billionaire Carl Icahn decided in August to close the iconic Trump Taj Mahal on October 10, 2016 as the management was unable to reach agreement with the Local 54 of Unite-HERE union who had gone on strike as they wanted better healthcare and benefits. The closure of the Trump Taj Mahal casino resulted in the fifth Atlantic City casino being shut down since 2014.
More than 3,000 employees lost their jobs due to the casino shutdown which added to the financial woes of Atlantic City. Bob McDevitt, the president of the Local 54 Union believed that Icahn intended to wait for a while and then re-open the casino under a new brand and hire a fresh set of employees who had no association with the union. Since current gaming laws in Atlantic City do not require Icahn to surrender his Trump Taj Mahal casino license this move was possible although Icahn and his team made no mention of reopening a new casino.
Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney acted swiftly and introduced a new bill to block Icahn from doing this. The new bill states that casino owners who have closed their casinos from Jan 2016 will have their licenses suspended for a period of 5 years. The State Assembly voted on the bill recently and a 60-17 vote in favor of the bill means that the final hurdle in getting it approved is for Governor Chris Christie to sign it. Gov. Christie has so far not made his intentions clear as to whether he approves or disapproves of the new bill.
McDevitt stated that he was happy with the new bill and the quick action that New Jersey legislators took to support the social compact. The new bill is phrased in such a way that the four casinos which closed in 2014 will not be impacted and only Carl Ichan will be hobbled. Icahn on the other hand has not been happy with the new bill and say it is unconstitutional. He went on to say that the new bill will discourage investment in Atlantic City and make it almost impossible for the shuttered Trump Taj Mahal casino to be re-opened.
Democratic Assemblyman John Burzichelli believes the new bill will discourage casino owners from trying to manipulate the licensing system. In a statement carried by the Associated Press, Burzichelli said “At the end of the day, 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.”
Should the bill be approved, it will still provide Carl Icahn an opportunity to regain the casino license provided an agreement is reached with labor.