NJ Senate Looks to Overturn Vetoed Casino Bill

by Jim Hall

New Jersey SenateAfter Chris Christie vetoed a bill that affected billionaire Carl Icahn and the Trump Taj Mahal, the state Senate looks to override the decision.

New Jersey is known for quality casino gaming and has been a top location for gamblers for many years. In the past, the Atlantic City area was bustling with activity as gamblers from across the United States as well as the world visited the city to take part in table games, slots and entertainment. However, in recent years, the area has seen an economic downturn with several gaming venues closing and legislator at loss as to what to do to keep the area afloat.

Last year, efforts were made to open up the state to gambling aside from just Atlantic City. A referendum was placed on the November ballot to add two gaming venues to the northern region of the state but the referendum was struck down by voters. At the same time, the Trump Taj Mahal had just closed down, which left the area with only 7 remaining casinos.

The Carl Ichan Debacle

Billionaire businessman Carl Icahn purchased the Trump Taj Mahal due to the property being in bankruptcy and part of the deal was that he would not be responsible for health insurance or pension plans for employees. This of course did not sit well with the staff and negotiations ensued. When the negotiation process would not suffice, neither side coming to an agreement, the staff decided to go on strike back in July of last year.

The strike would last for several months before Icahn would decide to shut down the gaming venue for good. The Local 54 Unite Here union was not happy with the shut down and actually claimed that they had heard Icahn was shutting down the venue to open back up in the spring with a non-unionized work force.

This report got lawmakers in action and a bill was created to punish the businessman. The Senate was able to push a bill forward that would have stopped any casino owner from reopening for a five year time frame in the gaming industry without a union contract. The bill would start its effect date from January 2016 and essentially would only effect Carl Icahn. The businessman felt the measure was unfair and so did Governor Chris Christie.

Vetoed by the Governor

Governor Chris Christie decided to veto the measure after it made its way to his desk, stating that the measure was a blatant attempt against Icahn and would affect other business owners from coming to the region and showing interest in the gaming industry. Senate President Steve Sweeney was critical of Icahn for shutting down the casino after the strike took place due to health care and now he is trying to see the measure put back in force, overriding Christie’s decision.

Sweeney stated that Icahn has spent more money fighting the workers than what could have been spent on benefits. Icahn fired back at the Senate president stating that it is extremely dangerous to give one person the combination of power and irresponsibility. He has already decided to put the venue up for sale and has surrendered his gaming license.

So far, no veto by Christie has ever been overturned, so it will be interesting to see if the Senate will be successful in their attempt to override the decision of the governor. The closure of the casino has put the area down to 7 gaming venues and left as many as 3,000 individuals without employment. A prospective buyer has yet to be found for the Trump Taj Mahal property.