Stockton University Students Protest Carl Icahn after His Company Blocks Campus Deal
College students are protesting Carl Icahn’s inclusion in the Atlantic City casino economy. Soon, the New York City activist investor will take control of Trump Entertainment Resorts, which owns the Trump Taj Mahal and the rights to the closed Trump Plaza.
On Thursday, though, Icahn’s presence at Trump Entertainment was protested by a crowd of college students and casino workers. Trump Entertainment is attempting to block the move of Stockton University into the old Showboat Casino in Atlantic City.
Stockton U Buys Showboat Casino
Showboat closed in September 2014. Stockton University has been seeking a location inside the city for months for an Atlantic City campus. The two sides appeared close to a deal that would partner the Showboat property, owned by Caesars Entertainment, with Stockton. But Trump Entertainment has filed to block that partnership.
Thus, students from Stockton Univesrity and other local colleges joined with the laid-off workers of the Showboat to protest Carl Icahn, who is seen as the one who decided to block the move. The students claim he is blocking progress in Atlantic City and is costing the city jobs in his own self-interest.
Stockton Purchase Seen as a Rare Bright Spot
When it was announced that the shuttered casino might be turned into a college campus, the local and state media trumpeted it as one of the few good signs of 2014. The idea that one of the empty and useless buildings which had become an eyesore and a symbol of better times might once again have its lights on again was a sign of hope.
Trump Entertainment Blocked Deal
Trump Entertainment did not see it that way. The gaming company said it did not want a college campus next to the Trump Taj Mahal. A press release states that it feared students under the legal age of 21 would sneak into the casino and gamble (and drink), which might expose the casino to costly fines. The students see other reasons Carl Icahn does not want Stockton College next door, though.
Shannon Herbst, a senior who majors in forensic psychiatry, suggested the gaming company’s attempts to block the sell was a sadistic game played by the billionaire. Herbst said, “I want Carl Icahn to know what he’s doing is wrong. He thinks this is a game, and it’s not. It’s my education, and my future.”
Saatkamp Is Optimistic
Positive signs have appeared. Herman Saatkamp, the university president, said after a meet with the Board of Trustees that that future of converting the Showboat casino complex into a campus were “looking positive”. Saatkamp did not elaborate on his reasons for the positive attitude, but he appeared to have signals that the impasse might be at an end.
Casino Workers Also Protest
In some cases, the college students were joined by workers at the city’s casinos. Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union is locked in a months-long court battle with Carl Icahn over pension and health benefits. Local laws assert that concessions made by one set of workers could be applied to other unions in the same industry, so casino workers throughout the city have joined in the protests at times.
Add to that mass of protestors the former employees of the Showboat. Many were not happy their casino was closed in the first place, because it still was profitable. Many likely hope to gain jobs if the Showboat building re-opens in some capacity, after Atlantic City lost 9,000 last year (out of a population of 40,000).
Icahn Pleads Innocence
Carl Icahn, for his part, is claiming innocence. He’s stated on several occasions that he is not calling the shots at Trump Entertainment yet. Because he is bankrolling the operation at present and is soon set to be the chief executive, one of the union leaders called Icahn “the puppet-master” behind decisions being made by Trump Resorts these days.
At the heart of the dispute is a 1988 covenant between Showboat, Taj Mahal, and Resorts Casino. The covenant stated the building never would be used for anything but “a first-class casino resort“.
Trump Entertainment says Stockton University knew about the covenant when it bought the building in December 2014. The president of Stockton says he was “led to believe” that Caesars Entertainment and Trump Resorts had come to an understanding about the sell. He also said the college would move to sell the building quickly, if the impasse could not be ended. One report suggested the Showboat would be sold to Glenn Straub, who recently purchased the Revel Casino.
Student Voice Outrage at Big Business
Meanwhile, students are left to express their outrage at a billionaire playing games with their futures. Brian Moore, a freshman studying hospitality and tourism management, said he looked forward to special study sessions on the floor of the old casino. Moore said, “I feel robbed. The program was going to have unique labs that were going to teach us real-life skills that you can’t learn in a classroom. There were going to be mock dining rooms, wine tasting rooms, and we’re being blocked by big business.”
Kendal Lambert, a Sophomore studying communications, told the New Jersey Herald, “I’ve never had someone try to stop me from pursuing an education. For a billionaire to say no to this is totally unacceptable.“
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