New Jersey pols pass anti-Icahn casino closure legislation


trump-taj-mahal-closed-legislationNew Jersey politicians have approved legislation that would prevent billionaire Carl Icahn from reopening the shuttered Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City.

On Monday, the New Jersey Assembly voted 60-17 in favor of a bill that would impose a five-year gaming license suspension on any casino owner who closed an Atlantic City venue after January 2016. The bill’s terms leave no doubt that it specifically targets Icahn, who closed the Taj Mahal in October after failing to achieve labor peace with Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union.

Almost immediately after the closure, union officials began warning that Icahn planned to reopen the Taj in the spring with a non-union workforce. That prompted the state Senate to introduce and pass the bill (by a margin of 29-6), which would retroactively apply to the Taj, but not to the other four AC casinos that shut their doors since 2014.

Assemblyman John Burzichelli said the bill was “designed to be a carrot, not a stick, by encouraging casino operators to remain open.” The bill’s architect, Senate President Steve Sweeney, said the bill was designed to prevent casino owners from “sitting on” licenses after closing their properties. The bill’s five-year license suspension would be lifted if an owner reached a deal with his or her property’s unionized workforce.

Icahn’s camp continues to insist that the new legislation is unconstitutional, given that it only applies to Icahn, and binds Icahn’s hands by prohibiting him from making other investments in the Atlantic City market for five years. Icahn also operates the Tropicana Resort and Casino, one of AC’s seven surviving gaming venues.

It remains to be seen whether Gov. Chris Christie will sign the bill. Christie is close to US President-elect Donald Trump, who is close to Icahn. The bill was approved by significant majorities in both legislative chambers, meaning a Christie veto could be overridden if legislators are determined to send a message to Icahn and any other casino operators contemplating similar union-busting maneuvers.