Following yet another postponement of a smoking ban bill in Atlantic City’s gambling establishments, casino workers expressed their utter aggravation. Senator Joseph Vitale explained that the votes to advance the bill were not sufficient. Lawmakers added that they were open to alternative suggestions such as smoking enclosures that would minimize the workers’ exposure to secondhand smoke.
Nearly 100 casino workers were brought together in a hearing room in the New Jersey State House for the common purpose of securing safe conditions at their workplace. During the 1-hour long hearing, they applauded the proponents of the legislation and condemned the opponents.
Lamont White, leader of the anti-smoking group and dealer at Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa, commented that casino workers had to face social inequality and fight for something that the rest had for granted. Nicole Vitola, another dealer at the same casino, added that due to the conditions employees were forced to endure they put their health at risk and could suffer preventable illnesses.
Senator Joseph Vitale said that Senate President Nicholas Paul Scutari supported the bill, which was of essential importance if it advanced to the Senate floor. He apologized to the casino workers and promised a vote on the bill would happen soon.
Atlantic City’s land-based casinos are exempt from the 2006 New Jersey law that prohibits smoking in public businesses. More precisely, smoking is allowed on 25% of the casino floor. Senator Richard Codey, who served as Governor at the time this loophole became a fact, said that “it never should have happened that way”.
The Casino Industry is Against the Smoking Ban
The long-debated issue antagonizes casino workers and casino owners who claim a smoking ban would result in customers refraining from visiting land-based casinos. The potential prohibition would have a detrimental effect on the businesses and Atlantic City’s economic recovery. According to a study, commissioned by the Casino Association of New Jersey, if the bill was passed into law, nearly 2,500 workers would lose their jobs.
Marty Small Sr., Mayor of Atlantic City, commented that he had discussed the topic with the industry, along with other pressing issues. He added he would endorse a decision that would be beneficial for both parties of the debate.
The debate on whether to ban smoking in Atlantic City’s casinos or not is quite a long and tumultuous one. Chris Moyer, a spokesperson for the Atlantic City casino workers, said that similar anti-smoking movements happened in other states, such as Michigan and Pennsylvania, where smoking in designated areas was allowed.
Half of the casino revenue in Atlantic City for 2022 was generated from land-based gambling. Just three of Atlantic City’s nine casinos, Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa, Ocean Casino Resort, and Resorts Casino Hotel exceeded their pre-pandemic revenue levels in terms of land-based gambling.