WIth billionaire investor Carl Icahn poised to take over the casino, scores of union members picketed outside the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort yesterday, protesting the elimination of health insurance and pensions.

Icahn insists the cuts are vital to keeping the struggling gambling hall open.

The demonstration by Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union was the fifth public protest against the Taj Mahal since October, when a bankruptcy court judge allowed Trump Entertainment Resorts to cancel its union contract and impose its own, less costly work terms. The protests included picketing outside Icahn's New York office and a sit-down demonstration in which union members blocked the Atlantic City Expressway.

A judge in Delaware on Thursday gave Icahn permission to take over the company once it emerges from bankruptcy.

Union president Bob McDevitt said the protest proves workers will never accept the elimination of their benefits.

"Carl Icahn has decided to run the Taj Mahal into the ground while he's waiting to take it over," he said. "Today we are saying we're not going to take this anymore."

Trump Entertainment officials declined to comment, and Icahn did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Icahn saved the casino from closing in December by promising to fund it through bankruptcy. He has pledged up to $82.5 million to help the company exit bankruptcy.

But a crucial court ruling could still doom the casino. Local 54 is appealing the termination of workers' benefits, and Icahn has vowed to close the casino rather than accept the restoration of the previous union contract, which he considers unaffordable.