“I think it sends a very clear message that the New Jersey Legislature takes its interest and its relationship with any casino very seriously,” said Assemblyman John Burzichelli.
If you’re still wondering what’s to come of the shuttered Trump Taj Mahal, the chances of billionaire casino magnate Carl Icahn reopening it are unlikely.
“There’s such hardship on these employees that have worked in these casinos. Such devastation in terms of the business community and how these closings have affected lives. I think this is a reaction really to an operator who feels he can open and close at will,” said Assemblyman Ralph Caputo.
In a unanimous vote, the Assembly’s Tourism, Gaming and Arts Committee passed a bill that prevents anyone who closes a casino, from obtaining another casino license for five years. It doesn’t directly call out Icahn, but appears to target the business mogul. Icahn engaged in a long battle with Taj Mahal employees over labor disputes before closing its doors on Oct. 10. Insiders speculated that Icahn would reopen and rebrand the casino with new, non-union staff.
“There’s a very basic point here,” said Burzichelli. “Casino license is a privilege they’re established by way of New Jersey changing its constitution. We have an interest in what happens in Atlantic City, the revenue that comes from casinos. So when people manage that license in a way that has more focus on them as opposed to us, meaning what the state needs out of those licenses, it draws our attention.”
“It would have been a lot better of if he had negotiated if he plans to reopen, if there had been some settlement in terms of the labor dispute with those employees. I think there would have been a better taste in people’s mouths regarding this whole issue. Of course he’ll have the opportunity to reapply. I don’t think that they would deny anybody the opportunity to reapply but the legislation speaks for itself,” Caputo said.
And although the Taj closed in October, the proposed law retroactively goes into effect Jan. 1, 2016. Opponents argue Icahn saved the casino when it was in danger of closing six years ago saying the proposal prevents restoring any of those jobs.
“We’ve had casinos close that were profitable aside from this individual like Showboat closing and they were making money. So I mean, if you were one of those 10,000 people out of work I think they would feel very satisfied that we’re doing something like this,” said Caputo.
The measure is expected to pass when it goes before the legislature for a full vote. NJTV News reached out to Carl Icahn and Tony Rodio, who ran the Taj Mahal under his ownership. Both were unavailable for comment.