ATLANTIC CITY - Atlantic City's eight surviving casinos would get a break on taxes and the city would get help making up for lost revenue under a rescue plan unveiled by two state senators.
The plan, introduced in the Legislature late Monday and announced Tuesday by State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) and Sen. James Whelan (D., Atlantic), would let the casinos collectively pay $150 million in lieu of taxes for two years. It would redirect an investment alternative tax - currently used for redevelopment projects - to help pay off from $25 million to $30 million of Atlantic City's debt a year.
The measure has many of the elements the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort has been seeking from state and local government in what it says is an effort to keep the casino open and save its 3,000 jobs. Asked whether the package would be enough to keep the Taj open, Robert Griffin, chief executive of Trump Entertainment Resorts, said, "We will see."
The casino is scheduled to close Dec. 12.
The plan is designed to help casinos by reducing their annual taxes. It would help the city by giving it a predictable revenue stream without the massive casino tax appeals each year that have helped drain the city's coffers.
Four of Atlantic City's 12 casinos have closed this year; the plan is designed to prevent more from going belly up.
"This plan will help stop the bleeding," said Whelan, a former Atlantic City mayor.
Sweeney proposed the plan earlier this year. It is similar to one unveiled and endorsed a few days later by Gov. Christie, a Republican, and a commission he appointed to study ways to help the resort, where 8,000 workers have lost their jobs this year.
"My plan is designed to protect Atlantic City from bankruptcy and position the city for future economic growth," Sweeney said. "With the multiple casino closings and competitive pressure in the gaming industry, Atlantic City is facing an unprecedented economic challenge. We need to take immediate action to stabilize the existing workforce, the casinos, property taxpayers, and the entire community."
Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Christie, said the governor welcomes Sweeney's proposal, "which will be part of the ongoing discussions" on how best to help Atlantic City.
The bill also would mandate a minimum health insurance and retirement benefits package to each casino worker, a major issue in the Taj Mahal labor dispute. Trump Entertainment won a bankruptcy court ruling in October that canceled its contract with Local 54 of the Unite Here union and freed the company from costly health insurance and pension obligations. The union is appealing that ruling, and the company has since offered to reinstate health coverage for two years and contribute to a new pension plan.
Billionaire investor Carl Icahn, who plans to acquire Trump Entertainment by forgiving $286 million in company debt he owns, intends to invest $100 million in the Taj Mahal, but only if the union drops its appeal.