A bill that would disqualify a casino license applicant for five years if that person “substantially” closes a casino in the state was approved by the state’s Senate Budget and Appropriation Committee on Tuesday.
The bill, sponsored by Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Deputy Speaker John Burzichelli, both D-Salem, Gloucester, Cumberland, amends existing law that gives gaming regulators the responsibility to require license holders to abide by certain standards. The bill would update those standards to “prevent the manipulation of bankruptcy law and gaming licensing.”
The bill is in response to concerns that Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort will close and “warehouse” the license, or reopen the casino with reduced wages for workers, Sweeney has said in the past. In early August, Taj Mahal management blamed striking Unite Here Local 54 workers for preventing a “path to profitability” and forcing the closing of the property.
On Aug. 5, employees of the casino were given state-mandated layoff notices that the property would close Oct. 10.
They include the more than 1,000 Local 54 members — cooks, housekeepers, bellmen, bartenders, cocktail servers and other service workers — who have been on strike since July 1.
“This bill is good public policy because it creates a disincentive for casino owners who might want to avoid any sort of perceived temporary problem by closing a casino with a plan to reopen it at a later date,” said Ben Begleiter, research director for the union. “One could easily imagine any of a series of possibilities in which an owner might choose to temporarily close.”
The bill lets the Division of Gaming Enforcement determine what constitutes a “substantial closure” of a casino. It would be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2016, but would not apply to other casino licenses held by the owner.
The bill now goes to full Senate for a vote.