No Update On Atlantic City Smoking Lawsuit As Casino Workers ‘Remain Hopeful’

Written By Corey Sharp on July 9, 2024
Image of a cigarette on a casino poker table for a story on Atlantic City casino employees remaining hopeful for a positive ruling on a smoking ban lawsuit.

Nearly two months have passed since a New Jersey superior court judge heard arguments in a lawsuit to potentially outlaw smoking in Atlantic City casinos. He hoped to issue a ruling “as quickly as possible.”

Yet the smoking ban lawsuit, filed by Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects (CEASE), has not had an update since that May hearing, when Superior Court Judge Patrick Bartels heard opening arguments from both sides.

While there is nothing new to report, CEASE told PlayNJ on Monday evening regarding the lawsuit:

“Casino workers and specifically CEASE are diligently exploring every possible avenue to protect our lives and those of thousands of fellow workers in South Jersey. We remain hopeful that New Jersey will extend the same protections to casino employees as to all other workers in the state, ensuring that no one has to choose between their paycheck and their health.”

There is no timetable on the next steps of the lawsuit or when a decision is expected to be made. PlayNJ will be made aware of any movement on the case moving forward. Taking strong action and filing the lawsuit in April, the decision has a huge affect for not only Atlantic City casinos, but even other states across the country.

Atlantic City casinos still await smoking decision

It’s been nearly two months since Bartels heard both sides of the argument between Atlantic City casinos and CEASE members.

CEASE took matters a step further than its neighboring state casino workers in Pennsylvania, who is letting the legislation process play out. When filing the lawsuit, it came down to the word “urgency” for CEASE members. Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights President and CEO Cynthia Hallett said back in April:

“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.”

The state displayed urgency in hearing the matter around a month after CEASE filed the lawsuit. However, it’s been close to two months since there has been an update.

It’s hard to tell whether the long wait is good or bad for casino employees. The state must be heavily mulling over pros and cons of each scenario, as a decision would have a rippling affect.

Smoking decision will make an impact across country

The Atlantic City casino district is not Las Vegas, however, it’s one of the country’s top gambling havens. Instituting a smoke ban would change the industry forever.

CEASE members are arguing that their safety and health has been jeopardized far too long. Unfortunately, the state is considering other factors when it comes to a complete smoke ban.

Land-based casinos in Atlantic City have yet to fully recover financially since pandemic restrictions have been lifted. While CEASE members believe a smoke ban would increase business, UNITE Here Local 54, the largest AC casino worker union representing close to 10,000 employees, thinks a ban would cause layoffs.

Other states, such as Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Kansas and Virginia, are looking at this New Jersey lawsuit extremely closely. If Atlantic City casinos are ruled to go smoke-free, other states could follow suit.

Look no further than Pennsylvania’s Parx Casino, which is the highest-grossing casino in the state and has voluntarily been smoke-free since the pandemic.

The decision in New Jersey could go either way. And whichever way it goes will have a huge impact on the industry.

Photo by Shutterstock
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Corey Sharp

Corey Sharp serves as the lead writer for PlayNJ after joining Catena Media in 2022. Born and raised in Philadelphia, he previously worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer and NBC Sports Philadelphia as a sports writer and content producer. As lead writer for PlayNJ, Corey heads up a talented team of expert journalists and analysts to bring you the most comprehensive coverage of gambling news in New Jersey.

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