Icahn: Ex-Trump Taj Mahal casino not for sale

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Trump Taj Mahal (Fox5NY.com photo)

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Billionaire investor Carl Icahn says his shuttered Trump Taj Mahal casino is not for sale, and he appears content to sit on it for a while.

Icahn told The Associated Press Tuesday night he does not want to sell the casino, which he closed on Oct. 10 after a bitter strike with Atlantic City's main casino workers' union.

But he plans to surrender its casino license, and wants to make sure that anyone who might buy it in the future can't use it as a casino unless they pay his company an unspecified fee.

Icahn's company filed a deed restriction preventing a future purchaser from using the Taj Mahal as a casino.

He also said he's not sure whether he'll try to reopen it.

"We are not looking to sell it, not at today's prices," Icahn said. "I made my fortune buying things cheap."

His comments came on the same day that New Jersey gambling regulators revealed that Icahn has applied for permission to surrender the Taj Mahal's casino license. He petitioned the state Division of Gaming Enforcement on Dec. 22 for permission to turn in the license.

Icahn did so as New Jersey moved to punish him for closing the Taj Mahal. The state Legislature last month passed a bill that would strip the casino license for five years from any owner who shut down an Atlantic City casino after January 2016, meaning it would only apply to Icahn at this point. Republican Gov. Chris Christie has not indicated whether he will sign or veto the measure.

The bill was written by state Senate President Steve Sweeney, himself a union official. Icahn, who also owns Atlantic City's Tropicana casino, blasted Sweeney on Tuesday, saying the appearance that the Legislature "is at war with business" will discourage investment in New Jersey.

"When a guy like Sweeney goes after someone who saved the Tropicana and 3,000 jobs when no one else would, who would invest in New Jersey?" he asked. "The worst thing about New Jersey is they have Sweeney as head of the Senate. The best thing about New Jersey is they didn't make him governor."

Sweeney spokesman Rich McGrath said the legislation was needed to address "the callous actions of a multi-billionaire who has a history of putting his own selfish quest for personal profits ahead of the rights of working people."

The moves seem to undercut a suspicion among former Taj Mahal workers that Icahn plans to reopen the casino in the spring, with or without a union contract. It closed in October following a 3 1/2-month strike by Local 54 of the Unite-HERE casino workers union, which wanted health insurance and pension benefits that were terminated in bankruptcy court restored.

The future of the Taj Mahal, which President-elect Donald Trump opened in 1990 but lost control of in a casino bankruptcy, has been a hotly debated topic in Atlantic City, particularly as the seven surviving casinos are slowly seeing their businesses stabilize with less local competition.