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Trump casinos revise request to keep casino open

WILMINGTON, Del. — The parent company of Atlantic City’s struggling Taj Mahal casino has reworked its request for help from New Jersey’s state government to keep the casino open.

William Hardie, a financial adviser to Trump Entertainment Resorts, testified Tuesday at the company’s bankruptcy hearing that it wants $175 million in aid. It would take the form of tax exemptions — formally known as payments in lieu of taxes — and the receipt of two types of state economic development grants not normally available to casinos: the Economic Redevelopment Grant and the Urban Revitalization Grant.

New Jersey legislators would have to vote on whether to let casinos participate in the plans. Last week, State Senate President Steve Sweeney ruled out state financial aid for the Taj Mahal until its main lender, billionaire Carl Icahn, treats his employees better. Sweeney and others held a news conference to decry Icahn’s role in Atlantic City, saying he seeks to profit from the vulnerability of people making $12.50 an hour. Icahn rejects the criticism and says he’s willing to help keep the casino afloat.

Icahn’s contribution of $100 million is a key component of the Taj Mahal’s plan to stay open. Icahn would swap debt for ownership of the casino.

The company says it will close the Taj Mahal on Nov. 13 without union givebacks and substantial governmental aid from Atlantic City and New Jersey — both of whom have rejected the demands. The union has said it is willing to move all the casinos out of the National Retirement Fund and into a new, unspecified pension program, whose details remained sketchy.

Hardie said he contacted Jon Hanson, a confidante of Gov. Chris Christie who enlisted Hanson to formulate a plan to help Atlantic City through its current difficulties. The Taj Mahal would be the fifth of Atlantic City’s 12 casinos to close this year.

Hardie said he laid out the new plan to Hanson, and while he did not get a commitment that aid would be forthcoming, Hardie said he believes the state would be more likely to consider it if U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Kevin Gross lets Trump Entertainment out of its union contract.

The company’s original plan demanded major tax breaks from Atlantic City and the state — both of which rejected them.

If the judge rules against Trump Entertainment on Tuesday, the company is expected to quickly announce it will close the Taj Mahal. It was supposed to let the state Division of Gaming Enforcement know by Monday whether it is going to close the casino, but received an extension until Monday to see how the judge would rule.

About 3,000 employees would lose their jobs if the Taj Mahal closes, bringing the total so far this year to 11,000 newly unemployed Atlantic City casino workers.