In Praising Connecticut’s Continued Smoking Ban, NJ Casinos Group Says State ‘Close To Making A Major Change’

Written By Hannah Vanbiber on August 21, 2023
cigarette smoke in front of borgata atlantic city blackjack dealer

A group of casino employees based in Atlantic City recently applauded management at two Connecticut-based casinos for upholding their casino smoking ban.

The group Casino Employees Against Smoking’s Effects (CEASE) has fought in the New Jersey legislature for a similar smoke-free environment in Atlantic City casinos. In March 2023, they joined a public hearing to decry the ill effects of smoking on casino employees.

More recently, CEASE made a public statement supporting the Connecticut smoke-free environment.

The statement came in response to an article in The Day that highlighted how the top executives at Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino dismissed the suggestion that the no-smoking policies were responsible for a slight dip in slot-machine revenues in the last fiscal year, ending on June 30.

Casino analysts draw link from smoking ban to lower revenue

Industry analysts Spectrum Gaming Group had suggested a potential link between the Connecticut smoking ban and the revenue dip. Spectrum noted the casinos’ combined slot win (which is the total of wagers they keep after payout out prizes) fell 1.5% from the previous fiscal year. In fiscal year 2023, which ended in June, the slot win was $848 million compared to $861 million in the previous 12 months.

However, gross gaming revenue for online gaming nearly doubled in the same period. Spectrum raised the question of whether smokers were opting for digital casinos over in-person since they could no longer smoke at the brick-and-mortar slots.

Spectrum said that, “the decisions of Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun to remain smoke-free after the pandemic reopenings may have encouraged casino players who smoke to try digital gaming.”

Jeff Hamilton, Mohegan Sun’s president and general manager, and Jason Guyot, Foxwoods’ president and CEO, both questioned these conclusions. They did not believe the ban was responsible for harming business.

NJ-based group responds to Connecticut smoking ban

CEASE said in its statement about Connecticut’s smoking ban last week that it applauds the casinos “for making the decision many months ago to protect employees and guests from dangerous secondhand smoke.”

Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods went smoke-free during the coronavirus pandemic and remained that way after reopenings began.

Added CEASE: “The old conventional wisdom about smoking in casinos no longer applies, and we’re seeing example after example of this new reality playing out across the country.

“And here in Atlantic City, we are close to making a major change ― closing the casino smoking loophole ― that will protect our health while also inviting potential customers into casinos because the smoking is gone.”

CEASE is a group of thousands of casino dealers and frontline gaming employees in Atlantic City. They also have chapters in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Kansas and Virginia. They claim that smoking in casinos has had detrimental effects on employee health.

State legislators support smoking ban in Atlantic City casinos

New Jersey legislators have also condemned the problem of secondhand smoke.

Assemblyman Don Guardian (D-Atlantic), who was once the mayor of Atlantic City, spoke up in the March meeting.

“I don’t want to take away your right to kill yourself by smoking,” Guardian said. “I do want to take away your right to kill someone else by smoking in a casino.”

Currently, smoking is permitted on 25% of a casino floor in Atlantic City, compared to the total ban in the Connecticut casinos in question.

Smoking in casinos was temporarily banned when Atlantic City casinos reopened after pandemic-related shutdowns. But smoking was reinstated on 25% of casino floors in July 2021.

CEASE’s push to ban smoking is gaining traction but has not yet led to legislative change.

Photo by Brian Branch-Price / AP Photo
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Hannah Vanbiber

Hannah Vanbiber is a contributing writer for PlayNJ after starting her journalism career in Chattanooga, Tennessee. From covering local sports, entertainment and business in East Tennessee, Hannah now covers legal gambling for New Jersey and New York as well as covering women's sports and sports betting in the New York metropolitan area.

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