Casino Smoking Opposition Movement Celebrates Atlantic City Committee Vote

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A recent bill passed by the Atlantic City Council backs removing a loophole that permits tobacco use inside New Jersey gaming resorts. The move was applauded by a top advocacy union opposing casino smoking.

During its August 25 sitting, the Atlantic City Council voted in favor of a verdict that gives the council’s support of New Jersey Senate Bill 1878. The law seeks to stop the indoor smoking ban, excluding casinos and simulcasting entities.

The American for Nonsmokers’ Rights (ANSR) appreciated the Atlantic City Council for the move in a statement issued.

“This is a positive step forward to ensure that casino employees are not forced to choose between their health and a paycheck,” Cynthia Hallett, ANSR president and CEO, declared.

New Jersey’s 2006 Smoke-Free Air Act offered Atlantic City casino immunity for the legislation. Although almost all other indoor facilities must prohibit indoor smoking, casinos can choose up to 25% of their gaming floors for smoking.

Smoking ban odds long

Atlantic City casinos are firmly against prohibiting indoor smoking. Industry executives claim such an order would put a damper on revenues, a claim anti-smoking supporters reject.

Casinos in various parts of the nation have registered solid play while temporarily prohibiting cigarette smoking indoors. Among them is Pennsylvania, where casinos reported record monthly gross revenue in May despite running smoke-free.

Hallett claims there is no solid evidence proposing a great impact on the Atlantic City casino business if required to extinguish smoke. However, she admits that powerful legislators have yet to give their support to the fight.

“Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) remains the biggest obstacle to getting this legislation across the finish line,” Hallett described to Casino.org. “We are building a diverse coalition of lawmakers, casino workers, businesses, and others who will help us make inaction unacceptable.”

In May, Sweeney said that New Jersey’s gaming industry is struggling during COVID-19, and a smoking ban would decline a percentage of their business.

Hallett proclaimed, “State legislators will have no choice but to pass this legislation during the lame-duck session later this year. Tired industry arguments for keeping indoor smoking no longer carry weight, especially since Atlantic City casinos thrived while operating smoke-free.”

One potential advocate hired by ANSR is New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (D). The first-term governor has said the anti-casino union has assembled a very compelling claim.

Bill drags on

SB 1878 has not acquired much power in the Senate chamber. The law has yet to progress out of any committee and currently remains with the Senate Health, Senior Citizens Committee, and Human Services. Advocates of the bill claim it deserves more attention.

“The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that casino workers are at greater risk for lung and heart disease because of second-hand smoke, and a study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that the air in casinos can have up to 50 times more cancer-causing particles than the air on rush-hour highways,” read a statement from SB 1878 co-authors Senators Joseph Vitale (D-District 19) and Shirley Turner (D-District).

 

The legislators concluded, “This bill would protect all workers in New Jersey from the hazards of second-hand smoke by requiring that casinos simulcasting facilities to be smoke-free workplaces.”

Casino in 18 states ban smoking

In the US, 25 states have commercial casinos or racinos. But only nine are fully smoke-free. However, Delaware, Colorado, Illinois, Florida, Maryland, New York, South Dakota, Ohio, and Massachusetts prohibit smoking while gambling.

In July, the Star-Ledger editor board, the biggest circulation newspaper in New Jersey, required legislators to prohibit indoor casino smoking fully.

The op-ed read, “Yes, we have heard the objections of the Casino Association of New Jersey, which says a ban on smoking puts them at a competitive disadvantage. But they have yet to explain how profits at Atlantic City casinos were 11% higher in the first quarter of 2021 than in the first quarter of 2019.”