Billionaire investor Carl Icahn plans to surrender the casino license for his shuttered Trump Taj Mahal casino and wants to make sure that anyone who buys it can't use it as a casino.
New Jersey gambling regulators revealed Tuesday that the Icahn company that owns the casino petitioned the state Division of Gaming Enforcement on Dec. 22 for permission to surrender the license.
The company also filed a deed restriction last month in state Superior Court prohibiting any future purchaser from using the premises as a casino-- unless he or she pays an unspecified fee.
The moves seem to undercut a suspicion among former Taj Mahal workers that Icahn plans to reopen the casino in the spring, with or without a union contract. It closed Oct. 10 following a 3 1/2-month strike by Local 54 of the Unite-HERE casino workers union, which wanted its health insurance and pension benefits that were terminated in bankruptcy court restored.
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In its request for permission to surrender its casino and liquor licenses, Icahn's Trump Taj Mahal Associates says it complied with state requirements on securing unopened liquor, gambling equipment and business records; made provisions to pay off unclaimed casino winnings; and reduced its security staffing to "warehouse mode.''
The future of the Taj Mahal, which President-elect Donald Trump opened in 1990 but lost control of in a casino bankruptcy, has been a hotly debated topic in Atlantic City, particularly as the seven surviving casinos are slowly seeing their businesses stabilize with less local competition.
Since 2014, five casinos have shut down-- The Atlantic Club, the Showboat (which reopened last year as a non-casino hotel), Revel (which plans to reopen this spring under the name Ten), Trump Plaza and the Taj Mahal.
The New Jersey legislature last month passed a bill intended to punish Icahn for closing the Taj Mahal. It would strip the casino license for five years from any owner who shut down an Atlantic City casino after January 2016, meaning it would only apply to Icahn at this point. Republican Gov. Chris Christie has not indicated whether he will sign or veto the measure.
Deed restrictions applied to each of those casinos, though Showboat purchaser Bart Blatstein was able to work out a deal with Icahn to resolve his company's deed restriction on the Showboat's use.