UPDATE: As of noon, Thursday, Dec. 18, Unite Here 54 released a statement saying that Carl Icahn had backed out of the deal. “We thought that we had come to an agreement with all parties that would resolve all of the issues with the Taj Mahal,” said union president Bob McDevitt on the union’s Facebook page. According to the Atlantic City Press, the casino may still remain open as Icahn has pledged $20 million to see the casino through bankruptcy which would keep the doors open. This is a developing story.
The Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City was supposed to close early Saturday morning, following in the footsteps of its sister Trump Plaza, Showboat, Revel and the Atlantic Club. However, according to the New York Post on Dec. 17, a last-minute deal with billionaire Carl Icahn should keep the Taj from becoming the fifth casino closure this year.
Carl Icahn owns the successful Tropicana casino at the other end of the Boardwalk. He also owns all of the Taj’s bank loans. Icahn had offered to purchase the casino and keep it open upon certain concessions from the Unite Here 54 union and tax breaks from the State.
However, after a Delaware court allowed the collective bargaining agreement that granted health and pension benefits for the casino’s hotel workers to be voided, Unite Here 54 filed an appeal. It’s been a waiting game of “chicken” between Icahn and the union. Another sticking point was his wish to outsource non-union restaurant workers.
Icahn has conceded to the union’s demands. Approximately 1,100 of the casino’s 3,000 employees are represented by the Unite Here 54 union. Those union members have been working without a contract for the last three months.
The one concession the union gave to Carl Icahn was in the pension benefits area. The union members’ new pension plan will be associated with the Tropicana instead of other vulnerable casinos in Atlantic City.
In return for Icahn’s purchasing the casino and keeping it open, Senate President Stephen Sweeney will propose legislation that will provide approximately $150 million in tax breaks to the Taj. The legislation is expected to pass quickly. Governor Chris Christie and gaming “czar” John Hanlon made the deal, which may also be the catalyst for the Trump Plaza to be reopened, albeit not as a casino.
So, for now, it looks like the Taj Mahal will remain a viable gaming property on the Atlantic City Boardwalk and 3,000 employees will still have jobs come the new year. With Showboat being turned into the Stockton College Island Campus and the possibility of Trump Plaza being reopened, this is good news for a town that is more than ready to kiss 2014 good-bye.