NJ Gov. Chris Christie Vetoes Bill Suspending Taj Mahal Casino License

Posted By Steve Ruddock on February 7, 2017

[toc]Chris Christie vetoed an effort spearheaded by New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney that the soon-to-be outgoing governor said “represents the legislature at its worst.”

The bill, passed by both chambers of the legislature, would impose a five-year casino license suspension on anyone shuttering a casino after January 2016.

Measure aimed at preventing NJ casinos from circumventing unions

Sweeney said the bill was designed to prevent casinos from strong-arming labor unions.

He claimed to see the potential of a license holder closing a casino, sitting on the license for a period of time, and reopening with a more favorable labor contract.

Based on the January 2016 bright line, the bill was clearly aimed at Carl Icahn and his Trump Taj Mahal. Five casinos have closed in Atlantic City since 2014, but the bill would only apply to Icahn and the Taj Mahal.

In his veto letter to the legislature, Gov. Christie sided with Icahn.

“It is a transparent attempt to punish the owner of the Taj Mahal casino for making the business decision to close its doors after its union employees went on strike and refused to negotiate in good faith,” Christie wrote.

The governor went on to say:

“This bill sends a chilling signal to businesses in New Jersey, and those thinking of relocating here, that they must ‘play ball’ with the unions or face retaliation by the Legislature.

Such a result is contrary to this administration’s efforts to further economic growth and development in the state and is therefore unacceptable.”

Is an override in the cards?

Christie’s veto could be overridden by the legislature (the bill passed the Senate by a vote of 29-6 with five no votes and the Assembly by a vote of 60-17), but this is something the legislature has been loath to do during Christie’s time in office.

During his tenure as governor, the legislature hasn’t overridden a single Christie veto, despite the governor vetoing several bills that passed with super-majorities.

Things are a bit different now that Christie is essentially a lame-duck governor and has historically low approval ratings, but there doesn’t seem to be much confidence in an override vote.

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Future of the Taj

Despite the veto, Icahn has apparently decided to cut his losses and sell the Taj Mahal, rather than reinvest money into the property and the city of Atlantic City; even if it means selling it for a loss.

Based on his comments, it almost sounds as if Icahn, who also owns the Tropicana, will rid himself of the Taj Mahal out of spite for Sweeney.

Said Icahn in a statement obtained by the Press of Atlantic City:

“After his irresponsible actions, we determined that we would not invest the $100 million to $200 million of capital we believed the Taj Mahal needed and that we would instead sell the Taj Mahal at a loss (if possible).

I believe other large investors will similarly have no interest in investing significant amounts in Atlantic City or New Jersey as long as Sweeney is in control of the Senate.”

Sweeney-bashing has become a favorite pastime of Icahn.

“When a guy like Sweeney goes after someone who saved the Tropicana and 3,000 jobs when no one else would, who would invest in New Jersey?” he said earlier this year. “The worst thing about New Jersey is they have Sweeney as head of the Senate. The best thing about New Jersey is they didn’t make him governor.”

Image credit: L.E.MORMILE / Shutterstock, Inc.

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Steve Ruddock

Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.

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