Senate OKs bill on idle casino licenses
& ADAM RIVERA
For The Press
TRENTON — The state Senate approved a bill Thursday that would prevent casino owners from “warehousing” their gaming licenses, a bill that could make it more difficult for Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort to reopen as a nonunion property.
The bill would strip gaming licenses from owners whose casinos close and prohibit them from receiving a new license for that property for five years.
“Casino owners shouldn’t be manipulating the system and exploiting bankruptcy laws as a way to break unions and take away the rights and benefits of the workers,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Salem, Gloucester, Cumberland. “Atlantic City’s gaming industry is obviously experiencing the difficult challenges of competition from other states, but the answer is not to engage in practices that punish the workers.”
The bill was approved by a 29–6 margin Thursday afternoon.
The legislation is in response to concerns that the owners of Trump Taj Mahal closed with the intention of warehousing its casino license only to reopen with reduced wages and benefits for workers.
The property, once called the Eighth Wonder of the World by former owner Donald Trump, closed Oct. 10 after management accused striking Unite Here Local 54 members of preventing a “path to profitability.”
“The Senate passed a good bill today that would provide stability for Atlantic City,” said Ben Begleiter, a spokesman for Unite Here Local 54. “Workers in Atlantic City have dedicated years of their lives to building the second-largest gaming market in the country, and they deserve stability in their lives. This bill protects workers and Atlantic City,”
The Taj Mahal was the city’s fifth casino to close since 2014.
“The best way to ensure that casinos succeed and their workers are treated fairly is to have the casino operators, the unions and the employees work together,” said state Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic. “Local 54 and the Tropicana have a good working relationship. It is our hope that this relationship can also take place between Taj and Local 54, and they work out an agreement so that the Taj reopens and the employees return to work.”
“It only makes sense to put a time limit on how long someone can hold a casino license. Whether that period is one and a half years or three years, after a certain amount of time, if you still hold the license, the casino should be up and running,” Whelan said.
Tony Rodio, president and CEO of the Taj’s management company, Tropicana Entertainment, has said the proposed bill would have a negative effect on Atlantic City.
Representatives of Trump Taj Mahal did not return calls seeking comment on the approval of the bill. However, on Tuesday, members of Taj Mahal’s management team expressed their concerns.
“I don’t see any reason for anyone to want to invest in the casino industry in Atlantic City given this adversarial investment climate being created by some leaders of our State Legislature, the same ones who are supporting the North Jersey gaming referendum that will certainly result in the closure of many more Atlantic City casinos and future disqualification of their present owners under this bad legislation,” Rodio said in a statement Tuesday.
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