- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 11, 2016

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) - Billionaire Carl Icahn would not be able to retain the casino license for his now-shuttered Trump Taj Mahal under a measure making its way through the state Legislature.

Seeking to avoid the possibility of Icahn keeping the casino shut during the winter and attempting to open it in the spring as a non-union facility, Democratic state Senate President Steve Sweeney has introduced a bill that would disqualify casino owners from holding a gambling license for five years after closing a casino.

On Tuesday, the day after Icahn shut down the Trump Taj Mahal, Sweeney said the bill would prevent the owners of shuttered casinos from sitting on the licenses indefinitely.

Kerry Langan, a spokeswoman for the state Division of Gaming Enforcement, said there is no deadline under state law for the owner of a closed casino to surrender its casino license. The Taj Mahal shut down after a strike that began on July 1; both sides were unable to agree on a new contract to restore health insurance and pension benefits that were terminated two years ago in bankruptcy court.

The casino would have to surrender the license when the division ordered it to, but that could take months, Langan said.

Sweeney said 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.”

“This bill,” he said, “encourages casino owners to help rebuild Atlantic City rather than keep their license and throw thousands of families to the curb.”

Nearly 3,000 workers lost their jobs in the Taj shutdown; 11,000 casino jobs have been lost since 2014 in the closure of the Taj Mahal and four other casinos.

Bob McDevitt, president of Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union, and many former Taj Mahal workers say they suspect Icahn will try to reopen the casino next year without the union. An Icahn spokesman wouldn’t comment on plans for the Taj Mahal but noted in a statement Monday that none of the other four Atlantic City casinos that have closed since 2014 has reopened as a gambling facility.

The bill has been approved by a state Senate committee; it awaits action in the state Assembly. It would enable a suspended casino owner to get a license back by reaching a deal with union workers to reopen.

It would not affect the casino license of the Tropicana, which Icahn also owns and which reached a new contract with the union the day before Taj Mahal workers went on strike.


Follow Wayne Parry at https://twitter.com/WayneParryAC

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