101516_nws_tajplayers John Calavano and Esther Berko, of Monmouth Beach, look to see if the slot machines are still inside the closed Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort in Atlantic City. Below, like many of the city’s remaining casinos, Tropicana Casino and Resort is trying to entice former Taj gamblers to play at its tables through billboards along the Atlantic City Expressway.

Craig Matthews / Staff Photographer//

TRENTON — A bill that would disqualify a casino license applicant for five years if that person “substantially” closes a casino in New Jersey was approved Monday by the state Assembly’s Tourism, Gaming and the Arts Committee.

The bill now goes to the full Assembly. In October, the state Senate approved it 29-6.

The legislation is in response to concerns the owners of Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort closed the facility in October so they could reopen in the future with reduced wages and benefits for workers. The casino’s management had accused striking Unite Here Local 54 members of preventing a “path to profitability.”

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Under the bill, an applicant would be disqualified from holding a casino license for a five-year period immediately after the facility’s substantial closure.

The state Division of Gaming Enforcement would determine what constitutes a substantial closure of a casino hotel.

“Essentially what we’re trying to do is prevent casino owners from manipulating the licensing system and abusing rank-and-file casino workers,” said Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-Cumberland, Gloucester, Salem. “Given Atlantic City’s struggles, the last thing we want to see is a casino owner taking advantage of bankruptcy laws and pocketing a license or, even worse, stripping workers of benefits and denying them a fair wage because they couldn’t come to the table and strike an agreement.”

Representatives of Taj Mahal have said the legislation creates an anti-business atmosphere.

The bill would be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2016.

“At the end of the day, this is designed to be a carrot, not a stick, by encouraging casino owners to remain open, rather than allowing them to hold onto their license while they shut down and leave thousands of working class folks without a job,” Burzichelli said.

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Contact: 609-272-7046 NHuba@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPressHuba

Started working in newsrooms when I was 17 years old. Spent 15 years working for Gannett New Jersey before coming to The Press of Atlantic City in April 2015.

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