April 30, 2024 4 min read

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New Jersey AG Wants UAW Anti-Smoking Lawsuit Thrown Out

Resentment over indoor smoking has reached another legal crescendo with two unions and the attorney general's office now clashing over the issue

United Auto Workers (UAW), a union which also represents casino workers, has previously filed a lawsuit that wants to compel the state to remove Atlantic City’s nine casinos from the list of excluded properties where indoor smoking is allowed. The UAW’s lawsuit argues that the health of casino staff is put in danger because of the continuation of indoor smoking on gaming floors.

We Are All on the Same Side – Almost

Yet not everyone agrees. A pushback from the New Jersey Attorney General’s office is to be expected, but the camp against banning smoking for the time being also includes Local 54 of the Unite Here union, the state’s largest, which represents 10,000 casino workers and has filed an appeal with the Superior Court of New Jersey to dismiss the lawsuit brought around by UAW.

The filing says that workers stand to lose their jobs should a smoking ban be enacted, and further notes that only 25% of gaming floors are currently covered by the indoor smoking exemption. However, the lack of proper filtration between the smoking and non-smoking areas means that secondhand smoke does reach other parts of the gaming floor as well.

UAW is fighting on behalf of dealers at several major properties, including Tropicana, Bally’s and Caesars, with dealers usually the most impacted by smokers at their tables. Trinity Health, a not-for-profit health system, has also appealed to the state to heed the calls of the UAW and move forward with a complete ban on indoor smoking on the gaming floor.

New Jersey AG Matthew Platkin has already defended the state’s decision, and Gov. Phil Murphy, arguing that exempting certain areas of the gaming floors from the indoor smoking ban did not infringe on “any purported constitutional right to safety,” and has asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the lawsuit.

UAW lawyer Nancy Erika Smith, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the union, has said that she was baffled by Local 54’s reaction, and the union’s decision to fight back against a measure that could ultimately only benefit its workers. However, Local 54 has greater concerns on their minds.

The union’s workers fear that banning smoking would lead to a downturn in casino footfall, which will in turn mean job cuts, with as many as a third of all workers running the possibility of losing their jobs.

To Light Up or Not to Light Up – This Is the Question

Donna DeCaprio, Local 54 president, has mostly sided with what has been said by casinos themselves. A complete ban on indoor smoking at casinos would be “catastrophic” and have serious economic ramifications for casinos and their staff. Yet, Atlantic City and New Jersey have other states to compare against.

Pennsylvanian properties that have banned smoking have not registered a downturn in revenue. Similar efforts to limit smoking are also undergoing in Rhode Island, Kansas, and Virginia. Yet, Local 54 believes that the worst possible scenario is the only one. A complete ban on smoking would significantly reduce the sector’s competitiveness resulting in job cuts.

It has already been tried once before, the union reminded, referring to a 2008 ban on smoking, which saw casino revenues drop by 19.8%. However, there is also evidence to support the claim that casino floors may be reinvigorated as more non-smokers come to Atlantic City to play in a smoke-free area. Besides, a lot has changed in the United States when it comes to smoking habits.

A quick historical comparison shows that in 2008, around 20.5% of the population smoked. The rate has declined to less than 11.5% by 2021, with the latest figures likely to show even further decline. The saga is ongoing, with no end in sight just yet.

Journalist

Although Fiona doesn't have a long-spanning background within the gambling industry, she is an incredibly skilled journalist who has built a strong interest in the constantly growing iGaming network. The team at GamblingNews.com is glad to have her on our roster to help deliver the best stories as soon as they hit. Aside from writing, she loves to dabble in online casino games such as slots and roulette, both for her own enjoyment and also as research to better improve her understanding of the industry.

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