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Jerome García November 27, 2023 3 min read
Efforts against Smoking in Atlantic City’s Casinos Continue
A proposal that calls for the elimination of smoking inside simulcasting facilities and casinos gained traction last week
For nearly two decades, casinos in Atlantic City have been exempt from the statewide ban that prohibits smoking within public areas across New Jersey. The exemption in the New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act enabled casino operators to allow indoor smoking for up to 25% of their gaming floors. During the pandemic, Atlantic City’s casinos banned indoor smoking temporarily. However, with the pandemic residing, indoor smoking was reinstated. Unlike other states where the temporary smoking ban became the new normal, operators in Atlantic City continue to fear the possible negative impact of such a measure.
Despite fears, one proposal that calls to close the existing smoking loophole in the legislation is gaining traction in New Jersey. Senate Bill 264 (SB 264) proposes the elimination of the smoking ban exemption that is applicable to casinos and simulcasting facilities. The bill’s primary sponsors are Joseph Vitale and Shirley Turner, but it is also co-sponsored by two dozen lawmakers.
The proposal marks the latest effort by lawmakers that want to put an end to the exemption of smoking for casinos. Enjoying bipartisan support, SB 264 gained traction recently after it was heard by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. Supporters of the proposal hope for it to gain further traction and those efforts come at a time when bills can advance at a faster pace ahead of January, which marks the expiration of the legislative session.
The latest progress comes after a hearing with the Assembly dating back to March. At the time, supporters of the new proposal, as well as opponents, were heard. Besides bipartisan support, the smoking ban is backed by Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects (CEASE), a group that fights against smoking inside casinos.
Smoking Ban Opponents Voice Their Concerns
Despite the concerns about the impact of smoking on casino employees’ health, not everyone agrees with the proposed smoke ban in New Jersey. Groups against the smoking ban continue to claim that it may result in significant losses for casino operators. They claim that in turn, this can result in layoffs and reducing the number of employees.
Previously, Unite Here claimed that a smoking ban could have a devastating impact on Atlantic City’s casino sector. According to them, the implementation of a smoke ban may decrease gross gaming revenues for casinos by a staggering 11%.
Contradictory to anti-smoking groups, supporters of the smoke ban claimed that it wouldn’t have such a dire impact on the casino sector. Supporting this statement, the groups reiterated that a temporary ban imposed due to the pandemic did not hurt the sector.