Trump Taj Mahal

Is a constitutional challenge of the casino PILOT, which recently passed in the state Legislator, in the offing?

In a court filing last week Trump Entertainment Resorts asked a federal judge to bless a 10-year deed restriction that could prevent Trump Plaza from reopening as a casino any time soon. That disclosure made headlines. What didn't, though, was this footnote, buried in the filing:

”The Debtors (Trump Entertainment Resorts) believe that the PILOT Program’s mandatory participation requirement may present unconstitutional infirmities, and otherwise expressly reserve all rights and defenses with respect to the validity or legality of the PILOT Program.”

The company’s CEO, Robert Griffin, did not return a call for comment Tuesday.

State Sen. Jim Whelan, a primary sponsor of the PILOT, said he discussed the bill with representatives of every Atlantic City casino except Trump Taj Mahal.

“They were not excluded by me. They were overhwlemed with ongoing operating problems at the property and as such made a decision to not engage,” the Democratic Atlantic County lawmaker said Tuesday. “I don’t recall them objecting. I don’t recall them supporting. I dont recall them being involved at all.”

It’s not the first time a casino operator has raised the notion that the PILOT might be unconstitutional. In December, after the initial draft of the plan was released, the chief attorney for Golden Nugget threatened to file suit over the plan, which he said was patently unfair to smaller gambling halls. Golden Nugget dropped that objection as more details on the PILOT were hammered out.

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