Billionaire Carl Icahn’s Atlantic City management team is holding out the possibility of reopening the shuttered Trump Taj Mahal casino. The New Jersey Legislature is to vote Thursday on a bill that would effectively punish Icahn for shutting down the Taj Mahal on Oct. 10, stripping him of a casino license for the property for five years.
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Tony Rodio, who ran the Taj Mahal for Icahn, told The Associated Press the proposed bill would prevent the company from reopening the casino and restoring lost jobs.
Many union workers say they suspect the company will try to reopen the Taj Mahal in the spring as a nonunion facility following a 102-day strike by Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union that lasted until the casino’s final day.
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Rodio, who also runs the Tropicana for Icahn, said in a statement Wednesday that the billionaire saved that casino when it was in danger of closing six years ago.
“Punishing Mr. Icahn by revoking his ability to reopen the Taj or making further investments in Atlantic City for five years, as well as restricting his ability to sell the Taj, is unconscionable especially in light of his record in saving the Tropicana,” Rodio said. “It is particularly ill-advised because with this legislation Carl Icahn’s ability to further invest in Atlantic City has been constrained and the possibility of creating additional jobs, as he did at the Tropicana, has been seriously limited.”
Rodio did not respond to a question on whether the company does plan to reopen the Taj Mahal anytime soon.
Local 54 President Bob McDevitt called on Icahn to publicly commit to rehiring all the former Taj Mahal workers if the casino reopens.
“The people of Atlantic City fought like hell in 1976 to get casino gaming here because they wanted good middle-class jobs in the hospitality industry,” he said. “It’s OK if billionaires come into Atlantic City and get even richer from the industry. But everyone has to benefit, and that’s what they all forget.”
There currently is no deadline for the owner of a shuttered casino to surrender its casino license. Senate President Steve Sweeney, a Democrat, has said he introduced the bill to prevent owners from closing a casino and then “sitting on” the license for years.
His bill would return the casino license to such an owner if he or she reaches a deal with casino labor unions to reopen the casino. Rodio condemned that provision, saying that Sweeney, a union official, is trying to please fellow unions.
The bill would not apply to the Tropicana, another Icahn-owned casino that has a contract with Local 54. Nor would it apply to the four casinos that shut down in 2014: The Atlantic Club, Showboat, Revel and Trump Plaza. (Icahn acquired the shuttered Trump Plaza along with the Taj Mahal from bankruptcy court in March.)
Sweeney did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.