Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman John Burzichelli to combat concerns that casinos like Trump Taj Mahal, which closed in October, might “warehouse” their license or reopen with reduced wages for workers gained final legislative approval Monday in the Assembly. It now heads to the governor’s desk.
Specifically, the bill (S-2575/A-4187) would disqualify a casino license applicant from obtaining a casino license for five years if the applicant has substantially closed a casino property in New Jersey. The bill also stipulates that such a closure is sufficient cause for revocation of a license, but that license eligibility could be reinstated under certain circumstances.
“Essentially what we’re trying to do is prevent casino owners from manipulating the licensing system and abusing rank and file casino workers,” said Burzichelli (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “Given Atlantic City’s struggles, the last thing we want to see is a casino owner taking advantage of bankruptcy laws and pocketing a license or, even worse, stripping workers of benefits and denying them a fair wage because they couldn’t come to the table and strike an agreement.”
Under the bill, an applicant would be disqualified for a five-year period immediately following the facility’s substantial closure. However, such closure would not impact any other pre-existing casino license held by the casino licensee or applicant. The Division of Gaming Enforcement would determine what constitutes a substantial closure of a casino hotel facility.
“At the end of the day, this is designed to be a carrot, not a stick, by encouraging casino owners to remain open, rather than allowing them hold onto their license while they shut down and leave thousands of working class folks without a job,” added Burzichelli.
Additionally, a substantial closure would not constitute cause for disqualification if the closure occurs during a labor dispute and the casino applicant and registered labor organization representing the hotel facility employees reach an agreement to resume casino hotel operations during the five year period immediately following closure.
In addition, the Division of Gaming Enforcement would be allowed to reinstate a revoked license in the event a mutually-acceptable agreement is reached between the applicant and labor organization following the substantial closure.
The bill would take effect retroactively as of January 1, 2016 and would therefore apply to the substantial closure of a facility occurring on or after that date.
The measure, which the Senate passed 29-6 in October, gained Assembly approval 60-17.