On Tuesday, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement confirmed that Icahn’s Trump Taj Mahal Associates LLC had filed papers formally seeking permission to return his gaming license for the Taj Mahal, which closed its doors last October following months of labor strife.
The filing was made on December 22, one day after the New York Post reported that Icahn was looking to sell the Taj. However, Icahn also filed papers with the Atlantic County Clerk’s office on December 19 that slapped a deed restriction on the Taj which would prohibit future owners from operating gaming on its premises, unless the new owner pays Icahn an unspecified fee.
While deed restrictions aren’t new to AC, Icahn’s condition resembles a ‘from hell’s heart, I stab at thee’ retort to the New Jersey legislature, which approved a bill in late December that would impose a five-year gaming license suspension on any casino owner who closed an AC casino after January 2016. Gov. Chris Christie has yet to indicate whether he’ll sign the bill, which passed both legislative chambers by veto-proof margins.
Icahn himself slapped a deed restriction on the Showboat casino when he sold it to Caesars Entertainment in 1988. Icahn’s restriction required the property to be used for nothing but a casino, although Caesars slapped a conflicting deed restriction on the property when it closed the Showboat in 2014 that prohibited it from being used as a casino for a decade.
Developer Bart Blatstein, who purchased the Showboat in 2015, later worked out a deal with Icahn to drop the 1988 restriction. Blatstein denied having to pay Icahn to lift the restriction, saying the agreement involved only “minor considerations.”
Representatives of the Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union, which had sparred with Icahn after the billionaire convinced a court to scrap the unionized workers’ wage and benefit guarantees, had warned that Icahn planned to reopen the Taj this spring with a completely non-union workforce. Icahn had insisted that he saw “no path to profitability” for the Taj without unionized workers making further concessions.
Final figures for 2016 won’t be released until later this month, but AC’s remaining seven casinos have been reporting small monthly gaming revenue gains this year, with year-to-date brick-and-mortar gaming revenue up 1.2% to $2.09b through November, provided you discount the contributions from the Taj Mahal.