NJ Senate Unable to Override Christie’s Veto of Gaming Bill

by Jim Hall

Governor ChristieGovernor Chris Christie’s veto of the casino bill affecting businessman Carl Icahn stands as the senate fails to override the decision.

In New Jersey, businessman Carl Icahn has felt that he has been treated unfairly and Governor Chris Christie agrees. The governor recently vetoed a measure that would have penalized Icahn for five years due to shutting down the Trump Taj Mahal back in October. The bill was vetoed by Christie and an attempt to override the veto has now failed in the Senate.

A Little History

Let’s go back just a bit to fully understand the situation. Carl Icahn purchased the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City after the property filed bankruptcy. Icahn got the casino at a steal and as part of the deal, asked the judge in bankruptcy court if he could do away with the pension and health insurance of unionized employees. The judge allowed this, with Icahn saying he would use the funds to upgrade the facility.

Fast forward a bit and the union employees were not happy with this change. The Local 54 Unite Here tried to get Icahn to change his mind and negotiate some kind of deal for benefits but the businessman would not budge. The employees decided to go on strike in early July and continued to be on strike for many months as negotiations between the two stalled.

By October, Icahn had decided that he had had enough and would be closing the venue. Once closed, as many as 3,000 individuals were unemployed. Rumors began to spread that Icahn was making plans to reopen the casino by this spring and allow the workforce to be made up of non-union employees.

To combat this rumor, legislators created a measure that passed with House and Senate with a majority vote. The bill would put a five year restriction on casino gaming license holders, basically blocking a license holder from offering casino gaming if they shut down a gaming venue starting from January 1st of 2017. The bill was limited to affecting only Icahn, which he felt to be unfair.

Christie’s Veto

Once the bill made it to Christie’s desk, he immediately decided to veto the measure. The governor stated that the bill was Legislature at its worst and that it was backing one side of the dispute between two private parties without taking any legal, practical or collateral consequences into consideration.

This week, State Senate President Stephen Sweeney decided to try and override the veto by Christie. Sweeney is the main sponsor of the measure and was going to put the issue up for a vote but was unable to gain the support needed. Before an official vote could take place, Sweeney removed the bill from consideration. Reportedly, Sweeney will be making another attempt to override the veto once the democratic senators are in session. Apparently not everyone was on hand when the vote would have taken place.

Icahn now has plans to sell the Trump Taj Mahal, citing that the approval of the legislation by lawmakers was the last straw. From an employment perspective, it does seem that opting out of the insurance and benefits package was a bit much as employees rely on such coverage to live. It will be interesting to see if a company shows interest in the property and if they would choose to rehire those who formally worked at the venue and offer what Icahn would not.

It seems the smart thing to do would be to purchase the property and offer the former employees health insurance and pension benefits. Happy employees help a venue to be more successful and potential employees might be wary of seeking employment at the venue based on what Icahn did previously.