Back in 2006, smoking inside restaurants, bars and other public places in New Jersey was completely banned. While the regulation applied for public places, a single exception was made for casinos in Atlantic City that were allowed to keep smoking for 25% of their gaming floors.
Since then, multiple attempts to completely ban smoking from casino floors have failed. However, a new bill is quickly gaining traction and if approved and signed into law, may effectively end smoking in casinos.
Discussions about a Smoke Ban Start Again, Bill S264
Bill S264 proposes to eliminate the smoking ban exception for casinos and simulcasting facilities. The bill was introduced in the Senate and referred to the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee early in January this year. The new bill was primarily sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner and Senator Joseph F. Vitale, both Democrats. Another 11 Senators have co-sponsored the new proposal, most of them Democrats, but some Republicans too.
“It’s the right thing to do.”Senator Joseph F. Vitale, one of the primary sponsors of Bill S264
In a recent interview for NJ.com, Senator Vitale outlined that banning smoking from casinos is the right thing to do. Moreover, he asked how does “anyone require people to work in an environment that can give you cancer or emphysema or heart disease?” According to Senator Vitale, the existing regulation that allows smoking in casinos needs to be changed.
More Lawmakers Support the Proposal to Ban Smoking in Casinos
While the new bill proposes to permanently ban smoking in casinos, the activity was temporarily banned due to the pandemic back in 2020. Fearing that smoking can accelerate the spread of COVID-19, back then lawmakers imposed a temporary ban. With that in mind, the temporary smoking ban didn’t last long and it was lifted in July 2021.
Now, more than 35 members of the state Senate and the Assembly show support for the new proposal to permanently ban smoking. However, before the bill is signed into law, it would need to receive approval from the state Assembly and Senate. The proposal would also seek the signature of Governor Phil Murphy in order to become a law.
Opponents of the Ban Say It Will Impact Revenue, Employment
Supporters of the smoking ban say that the proposal would be beneficial for the health of the casino employees. Additionally, they point out that a smoking ban would eliminate the harm of second-hand smoke that workers in casinos inhale daily.
On the other hand, the gambling industry in Atlantic City had long feared a smoking ban. In fact, a report released last month suggested that a smoke ban may significantly impact the revenue of casinos. The report explains that operators may lose 11% of their revenue due to the smoke ban. What is more worrying is that such a decline in revenue may also result in 2,500 people within the sector losing their jobs.
By now one thing is clear: banning smoking in Atlantic City remains a hot topic. But whether or not bill S264 will gain further traction remains in the hands of the lawmakers. Besides New Jersey, lawmakers in neighboring Pennsylvania are also discussing banning smoking in casinos.