Casino Workers In Atlantic City Sue New Jersey Over Indoor Smoking Law

Written By David Danzis on April 5, 2024
Dealer works a table at Ocean Casino Resort for a story on Atlantic City casino workers suing New Jersey over a law that allows indoor smoking

Fed-up Atlantic City casino workers are suing the state of New Jersey over a law that still permits indoor smoking inside the shore town’s nine gambling parlors.

For nearly two decades, NJ has banned smoking inside the workplace. The prohibition applies to every business in the state, with the exception of casinos and a handful of select places, such as cigar bars.

On Friday, anti-smoking advocates held a press conference in Trenton announcing legal action against NJ for allowing smoking inside casinos to continue. The lawsuit was filed on April 5 in Mercer County Superior Court, according to public records.

In a press release, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights President and CEO Cynthia Hallett said:

“This lawsuit adds to the urgency for New Jersey legislators to act to finally pass the bills that close the casino smoking loophole in state law and protect every New Jerseyan from the known, harmful effects of secondhand smoke. New Jersey’s casino workers deserve the same protections as every other worker in the state.”

Lawsuit claims smoking law violates safety, equal protection

Court documents list United Auto Workers Region 9 and Casino Employees Against Smoking’s (Harmful) Effects, otherwise known as C.E.A.S.E., as plaintiffs. Gov. Phil Murphy and the state health commissioner are named as defendants.

The three-count suit accuses the state of violating Atlantic City casino workers’ rights to safety and equal protection under the law by exempting their places of work from the 2006 Smoke-Free Air Act.

Furthermore, the suit alleges the Smoke-Free Air Act is an unconstitutional special law.

UAW Region 9 represents table games dealers at three AC casinos: Tropicana Atlantic City, Bally’s Atlantic City and Caesars Atlantic City. It is the only labor union representing dealers in AC.

C.E.A.S.E. is a grassroots organization founded by a group of dealers at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa after the state’s COVID-19 restrictions were lifted and patrons were, once again, allowed to smoke inside casinos.

Momentum continues to brew for Atlantic City casino smoking ban

ANR, C.E.A.S.E. and UAW Region 9 have been pressuring politicians in Trenton to pass a bill that will close the casino smoking loophole in the 2006 law. The bill has more than enough support from legislators to pass, based on the number of sponsors and co-sponsors. Murphy has said he would sign it into law.

Still, the AC casino industry is pushing for a compromise. State Sen. John Burzichelli introduced legislation that would modify existing state laws to limit indoor smoking to no more than 25% of the casino floor and restrict smoking within 15 feet of live dealer games. The bill would allow smoking inside enclosed gaming areas as long as no casino employee is mandated to work in those areas.

In a recent letter to NJ lawmakers, UAW President Shawn Fain said:

“The UAW will not compromise on the health of any worker. We reject any amendment in the legislation that would allow workers to ‘volunteer’ to work in smoking rooms. No one should have to risk their health for a paycheck.”

The casino workers suing the state are seeking a declaratory judgment that the 2006 Smoke-Free Air Act is unconstitutional and a permanent injunction voiding the law’s indoor smoking ban exemption for casinos.

Photo by Wayne Parry / AP Photo
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David Danzis

David Danzis is the lead writer for PlayNJ. He is a New Jersey native and honors graduate of Rutgers University. As a newspaper reporter for the New Jersey Herald and Press of Atlantic City, David earned statewide awards for his coverage of politics, government, education, sports, and business. Today, he is PlayNJ’s Atlantic City “insider” and gaming industry expert on casinos, sports betting, and online gambling. David lives in Atlantic County, NJ with his wife and two children.

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