New Jersey Senate Fails To Override Gov. Christie’s Taj Mahal-Related Veto

NJ casino Taj Mahal senate override
Earlier this month New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie exercised his right to veto a law designed to punish casino owner Carl Icahn for failing to compromise with union workers and closing the Taj Mahal’s doors last fall.

Rumors swirled that Democrats were going to get enough votes to override, but they came up short in a Feb. 16 vote.

The bill’s author, Senate President Steve Sweeney, intends to call for a formal vote on the veto when he has more support to override it.

Is an override necessary?

Sweeney’s efforts to save his bill are curious considering the only person the bill affects, Icahn, claims he is selling the Taj Mahal.

The Taj Mahal’s legal team reclassified the deed on the property to ensure if the property does sell, the new owners would have to pay Icahn a substantial sum on top of the agreed-upon purchase price if they intend to use the property for gaming.

Moreover, Icahn surrendered the gaming license for the Taj Mahal.

Sweeney is still calling Icahn’s bluff. He is pursuing overturning the veto on the law, which would revoke the casino license for a period of five years of any casino which closed for a portion of 2016.

The Taj Mahal is the only New Jersey casino affected by this potential law. Icahn is also the owner of the Tropicana.

“What he’s doing with his actions in Atlantic City is wrong,” Sweeney told the press on Monday. He also remains skeptical Icahn intends to sell. “When does he do everything he says he’s going to do?”

Icahn released post-veto statement

Sweeney has harsh words for Icahn, but Icahn has equally harsh words for Sweeney.

In his statement released after the Christie veto, Icahn insisted he did not speak with Christie before he made the decision on the bill.

He also said the main motivator behind divesting from the Taj Mahal is none other than Sweeney:

“Unfortunately, as far as I’m concerned, Sweeney has already done irrevocable damage to Atlantic City specifically and New Jersey in general.

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.”

Can a future vote successfully override Christie?

In the seven years Christie has been in office, none of his vetoes have been successfully overridden.

The preliminary vote on the Taj Mahal veto came in at 23-13. The bill passed through the Senate in the first place by a vote of 28-7.

No Republicans voted to override the veto. Five Democrats who voted for the law opted to vote against overturning Christie’s actions.

Sweeney pulled the bill before a formal vote.

Sen. Ray Lesniak was not present for the vote and would have likely supported overriding. His singular vote would not have been enough to change the outcome.

Sweeney nonetheless feels there is a chance he can rally more support around the cause.

The Taj Mahal bill was not the only veto postponed on Monday. A bill about equal pay for women Christie vetoed was also postponed with generating more support to override and give the bill’s authors more time to reach a compromise with Republicans.

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Image credit: Andrew Cline / Shutterstock, Inc.

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Jessica Welman

About

A graduate of USC and Indiana University, Jessica Welman has long been involved in the poker industry. She has worked as a tournament reporter for the World Poker Tour, co-hosted a podcast for Poker Road, and as the managing editor for WSOP.com.

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