Sixteen years after the law in New Jersey banned indoor smoking in most public places, hundreds of casino workers in Atlantic City have urged state lawmakers to officially suspend smoking in local gambling venues, too.
On April 12th, about 250 people who currently work in the local casino sector gathered to call for the State Legislature to give the green light to a piece of legislation that would make sure casinos are no longer exempt from the indoor smoking ban. The workers shared that they had been forced to breathe in second-hand smoke for years, blaming New Jersey lawmakers for leaving them behind in the smoke.
The push comes at a time when the Atlantic City casino industry is trying to get back on track after the damaging effect of the coronavirus pandemic and is preparing for the opening of at least one additional casino in New York City that is expected to compete for many of the US gambling Mecca’s customers.
Previously, the Governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy, has pledged to sign the casino smoking ban into law if the measure is passed. In addition, the proposed bill has been co-sponsored by an unusually large number of local lawmakers. The proposed piece of legislation, however, has faced strong opposition from the local casino sector and Atlantic City’s main casino labor union, which claim that the smoking ban would result in widespread job losses across the local gambling industry.
Atlantic City Casinos Claim Smoking Ban Would Result in Multiple Job Losses and Lower Revenue
During yesterday’s gathering at a park near the ocean, some casino workers shared that seeking friends and co-workers fall ill in their workplaces, which are not subject to the same health protections that apply to other industries, has been extremely traumatizing. They claim that the lawmakers left them behind 16 years ago and it is now the right time to change that.
As previously reported by CasinoGamesPro, the trade group that represents the 9 Atlantic City casinos – the Casino Association of New Jersey – has recently tabled a report predicting that the implementation of a smoking ban in the city would result in widespread job losses and revenue decline.
At the time, the president of the trade group, Joe Lupo, explained that Atlantic City has not yet managed to recover from the harmful effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, with the employment at local casinos being at its 20-year low because it currently supported less than half of the workforce from 2003. The number of visits to Atlantic City is also hitting its lowest point in 20 years, while prices and taxes are constantly increasing. Mr. Lupo claims that the revenue generated by the land-based casinos suffered an almost 50% decrease from its highest point reached in 2006. He explained that now is definitely not the right time to see a smoking ban imposed on Atlantic City casinos because such a move would have a devastating effect on both the local community and the state.
Casino workers, however, do not agree with the findings of the aforementioned report. They also claim that a likely improvement in business conditions in the years following the potential implementation of the proposed smoking ban is not taken into account by the aforementioned report.
As mentioned above, a local casino workers union also called for local lawmakers not to pass a smoking ban. The president of Local 54 of the Unite Here casino employees union, Bob McDevitt, has recently sent a letter to the President of the State Senate, Nicolas Scutari, saying that imposing a smoking ban in Atlantic City casinos would result in job losses for the union and throughout the state, as well as in lost tax revenue for the state.