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Bill That Aims to Ban Smoking in Atlantic City Casinos Sees Surge in Sponsor Support

A bill that seeks to completely prohibit smoking within Atlantic City casinos gained further support among New Jersey lawmakers as fifteen more members of the General Assembly recently sponsored the measure. As many as 35 members of New Jersey’s Legislature have now embraced Bill S264, which aims to close a loophole that allows casino patrons to smoke within designated areas.

According to Senator Joseph F. Vitale, one of the primary sponsors of the bill, these are the highest levels of support the measure has witnessed so far. Senator Vitale marveled at the fact lawmakers had not taken any steps to fully ban smoking from gambling venues. The move has also received support from casino employees and anti-smoking proponents. Supporters insist the measure is in the interest of casino workers and would protect them from the hazards of inhaling second-hand smoke.

The local gambling industry continues to fiercely oppose the measure, warning that a blanket ban on smoking would force local gamblers to take their action to neighboring states like Pennsylvania and Connecticut. In turn, this could lead to a reduction in New Jersey’s gambling profits and tax revenue. Thousands of casino workers could lose their jobs, opponents of the ban warn.

The head of the New Jersey Casino Association Joe Lupo echoes these sentiments. Lupo insists the push for the smoking ban comes at a bad time when Atlantic City is struggling to recover from the damages of the coronavirus pandemic. The local casino industry is currently witnessing its lowest visitation and employment levels for the last twenty years.

Lupo reproached senior employees from the coalition of casino workers for their comments. Such senior employees stand smaller chances of getting laid off and refuse to take responsibility for those who could lose their jobs, Lupo concluded.

Looking at a Spectrum Gaming Group report released earlier this year, his concerns could prove to be justified. Spectrum projected that a full ban on smoking could result in over 2,500 lost job positions and a drop in revenue of almost 11%. The report also suggested that smokers accounted for 21% of gamblers in Atlantic City.

Previous Efforts to Stop Smoking in Casinos Were Unsuccessful

The Garden State outlawed smoking in restaurants and bars, among other public places, over fifteen years ago. However, the legislation from 2006 contained a special provision that enabled gambling venues to allow smoking on 25% of their premises. Two years later, smoking inside Atlantic City casinos was completely prohibited for four weeks. The ban was quickly lifted as the casinos’ revenue dropped by 19.5% within the first week only.

The attempts to permanently bar smoking in gambling venues have proved futile over the years. The issue gained greater transaction during the coronavirus pandemic when New Jersey’s Governor Philip Murphy, temporarily prohibited smoking in casinos. However, this ban was lifted last summer and smokers returned to the gaming floors, much to the displeasure of casino workers.

Despite the recent increase in sponsor support, Bill S264 must pass in both the General Assembly and the Senate. Governor Phil Murphy must also approve it before it becomes law. Proponents were vexed when the bill did not get voted during January’s session despite the adoption of another legislation that ensured more tax breaks for gambling operators to assist them in their recovery from the pandemic.

 Author: Harrison Young

Harrison Young is an experienced writer, who started his career almost 8 years ago. Prior to joining our team at CasinoGamesPro, he worked as an editor for a small magazine.