TRENTON - A package of critical bills being voted on Thursday at the Statehouse will decide the fate of the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City.
Legislation to ease the tax burden on the city's casinos with a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) program sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney (D., Gloucester) and Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo (D., Atlantic) is up for a vote before both houses.
"These package of bills will have influence on keeping the Taj open," Mazzeo, the first-term Assemblyman said just after 11 a.m. Thursday, as he prepared to go into a caucus session.
The New York Post reported late last night that billionaire Carl Icahn, who has been trying to secure ownership of the troubled casino, brokered a deal with Unite Here Local 54 to keep the casino open. That deal, according to the article, is contingent on the tax bills passing Trenton and becoming law, as well as other concessions by the union. Unite Here Local 54 represents most Atlantic City casino workers.
When it first became public that the Taj Mahal was on the brink of closure, Icahn said among the things he needed to keep it open, were substantial tax breaks from the city of Atlantic City and the state, as well as the union dropping an appeal of a court order that pared its pension and health care benefits.
Legislative sources say discussions to keep the Taj open have been going on for several weeks between Icahn, Sweeney and others. If the package is approved by both chambers, it could land on Gov. Christie's desk by end of the work day.
The Assembly will debate and vote starting at 1 p.m., followed by the Senate at 2 p.m.
Sweeney's proposed PILOT plan would exempt casinos from property taxes for 15 years. The casinos would collectively pay $150 million a year for the first two years, then $120 million a year for the next 13, assuming that gambling revenue stays within certain ranges.
Sweeney's plan would also eliminate the Atlantic City Alliance - the city's marketing arm - and use its $30 million annual budget to help pay down the city's debt service.
Mazzeo has sponsored legislation in the Assembly identical to Sweeney's.
If the Taj Mahal - which opened on April 2, 1990 under Donald Trump - stays open, it will avoid the fate of four other resort casinos that closed this year. The Atlantic Club, Showboat, Revel and Trump Plaza all saw their doors shuddered, costing Atlantic City over 8,000 jobs and leaving it with eight operating casinos, including the Taj.