New Jersey’s Senate unexpectedly failed to to override Governor Chris Christie’s veto of a controversial bill that would strip billionaire Carl Icahn of his gambling license for the Taj Mahal.

Chris Christie and Steve Sweeney clash over vetoed Icahn bill.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (left) said that Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney’s bill “represented the New Jersey legislature at its worst.” Following a vote in the Senate, the veto will stand, for now. (Image: politico.com)

Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney’s vetoed bill would have disqualified operators for five years from holding a casino license for an Atlantic City property they have closed. The license suspension, however, could be lifted if the operator is able to agree to satisfactory terms with the the casino’s employees and their union.

The bill, which was passed by the legislature in December, was designed to prevent Icahn from re-opening the Taj as a non-unionized property, and to protect Atlantic City casino workers in the future, but some see it as a vindictive piece of legislation, designed purely to punish Icahn shuttering the casino.

Republican Freeze-out

On vetoing the bill last week, Christie complained it “shamelessly backs one side in a labor dispute between private parties without regard to any legal, practical or collateral consequences far exceeds the scope of acceptable legislation and has no place in our state’s laws.”

He said it was “ill-conceived and poorly worded” and represented the New Jersey Legislature “at its worst.”

Nevertheless, considering the confident majority it received in the Senate last year, where it was passed 28-7, an overriding of the veto had been anticipated, Tuesday.

Instead, the bid fell four votes short of the 27 it needed. Not a single Republican voted to challenge the veto and, crucially, four Republicans who had originally voted in favor of the bill changed their minds this time around.

Faced with defeat, Sweeney pulled his legislation before the official vote could be recorded and vowed to launch another attempt in the future.     

Industrial Action

Icahn shuttered the casino in October after facing 102 days of strikes by the Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union. The union was protesting at the cessation of worker pension and healthcare benefits, but Icahn Enterprises said the casino was losing millions of dollars a month because of the strike and the company could no longer “see a path to profitability.”

Icahn had attempted to rescue the Taj following the bankruptcy of its previous owner, Trump Entertainment, but at the temporary expense of its workers’ pension and health care benefits.

He announced his intention to sell the property earlier this month, after claiming in January that the Taj was not for sale.   

Asked whether this made his bill obsolete, Sweeney said, “When does he do everything he says he’s going to do?”