New Jersey lawmakers propose changes to casino licensing protocols
New Jersey State Senate President Stephen Sweeney has introduced new legislation that would alter the current licensing protocols for casinos in Atlantic City and disqualify applicants that had “substantially closed” a property over the previous five years.
According to a report from Casino.org, the proposed legislation from the Democratic lawmaker, which is known as Senate Bill 2575, is thought to be aimed squarely at Carl Icahn after the billionaire businessman announced his intention to shutter the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort from October 10 as a result of an ongoing labor dispute.
Sweeney’s measure was followed by John Burzichelli introducing Assembly Bill 4187 featuring identical text and language into the New Jersey General Assembly and both proposals, if passed, would allow the state’s Division Of Gaming Enforcement to define “substantially closed” while additionally giving the regulator additional powers.
However, the text of Senate Bill 2575 reportedly suggests that any operator who intentionally shutters a casino with plans to later reopen the venue under a new name with revised labor contracts would qualify as having “substantially closed” the enterprise.
“This bill encourages casino owners to keep their properties open and rebuild Atlantic City rather than keep their license and throw thousands of families to the curb,” said Sweeney.
Icahn gained control of the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort last year after purchasing previous operator Trump Entertainment Resorts Incorporated and immediately became engaged in a battle with the local chapter of the UNITE HERE union over health care, pension and wage issues. After failing to reach an agreement with the around 1,000 employees affiliated with the trade union, the former stockbroker announced last month that he would be closing the 26-year-old venue and stands to lose approximately $100 million.
“Icahn Enterprises was willing to endure a tough situation when we thought we could emerge successful,” read a letter to Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort employees written by 80-year-old Icahn. “We wish this story could have had a different ending. We will do everything we can to manage the closure in the best way possible.”
The shutdown is set to represent the fifth closing of an Atlantic City casino since 2014 but Casino.org suggested that Icahn may be “warehousing” his gambling license before reopening the venue in the future with a new labor force and name. To prevent this, Sweeney’s measure includes a provision that would make it effective from January 1, 2016.
“Casino owners shouldn’t be able to misuse bankruptcy laws and gaming regulations in order to warehouse a license or take money out of the pockets of casino workers and strip them of benefits simply because they refuse to come to a labor agreement with their employees,” Sweeney told The Press Of Atlantic City.