A prominent gaming industry expert and activist is calling for a ban on smoking in New Jersey casinos in 2024.
Brian Christopher, arguably the most popular slots influencer in North America, was featured in CDC Gaming Reports’ survey of 19 gaming experts that collected their predictions for 2024 in the gaming industry.
In part due to the current efforts in New Jersey and neighboring Pennsylvania to eliminate smoke in casinos, Christopher wrote that 2024 “is going to be a watershed moment for smokefree casinos.”
To Christopher, who has nearly 650,000 followers on his YouTube channel dedicated to slots and casino gaming, a smoking ban in Atlantic City casinos is long overdue. He wrote a ban aligns with how society has worked to protect the public from illness and health risk. Despite a slight uptick in smoking in the US in the past five years, the habit is on the margins of societal behavior.
“The tide continues to turn toward a smokefree future with only 11.5% of the U.S. population smoking,” Christopher wrote. “Everyone in the U.S. who enjoys working in a smokefree environment should support these efforts to ensure equality for all.”
New Jersey, Pennsylvania at the forefront of push for smoke-free casinos
Smoking in brick-and-mortar casinos has long been a contentious issue. Casinos and resorts with casino gaming floors are among the few public venues that still permit public smoking. A national initiative that was born largely in the 1980s and early 1990s led to legislation across the US that made it illegal to smoke in retail establishments, offices, restaurants, public buildings, and eventually even most bars and saloons.
But casino operators successfully lobbied to be excluded from most laws that would have prohibited puffing and playing.
There was a failed attempt in late 2023 to pass legislation that would ban smoking in Atlantic City casinos. Now, advocates for smoke-free casinos turn in earnest to 2024 efforts. And sources have told PlayNJ that casino operators in Atlantic City would be less likely to lobby against smoke-free legislation if Pennsylvania first passes any type of smoke-free casinos bill.
And that could happen soon. House Bill 1657 in Pennsylvania, which would ban smoking in the state’s casinos, has passed through committee. It will next be voted on by the House.
Pennsylvania’s top-revenue-producing casino, Parx Casino Bensalem, has been smoke-free since the COVID pandemic.
Casino employees want protection from secondhand smoke
Concerned casino employees and public health advocates have teamed to create Casino Employees Against Smoking’s Effects (CEASE). The organization has aggressively pursued influence to get lawmakers to finally ban smoking in New Jersey’s casinos. This group has also been active in Pennsylvania.
Employees argue that their health is endangered by the effects of secondhand smoke. And for nothing, because they claim smoking bans have not been shown to impact revenue.
“The argument that casinos will take a hit by eliminating smoking from indoor spaces doesn’t take into account changes in mindset that came with the pandemic,” Christopher wrote for CDC. “As the data shows, smokefree casinos can be quite successful.”
According to Christopher, being smoke-free is not a detriment to revenue.
“Of the casinos reporting revenue outside Nevada, the top seven were all smokefree” in 2023, he wrote.