The New Jersey Senate will vote on a bill to ban smoking inside Atlantic City casinos during the legislature’s lame duck session, according to reports.
Senate President Nick Scutari, D-Union, appears ready to bring S264 up for a full floor vote after November’s General Election, according to POLITICO. The bill has garnered sponsorship or co-sponsorship from 26 out of a possible 40 state senators, meaning it will easily pass the Upper Chamber.
Gov. Phil Murphy has repeatedly said he would sign the bill into law if the State Legislature passes it.
The General Assembly must also vote and pass a companion bill in order for the legislation to be sent to Murphy’s desk. As of Friday morning, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, has not publicly indicated if the Lower Chamber will act. Of the 80 Assembly members, 57 are sponsors or co-sponsors of a companion bill to ban smoking in Atlantic City casinos.
Who supports and opposes the smoking ban in Atlantic City casinos?
All three of the state lawmakers who represent Atlantic City in the state capital are in favor of prohibiting smoking inside the resort’s nine gambling parlors.
The Atlantic City City Council passed a resolution in support of banning casino smoking. The United Auto Workers (UAW) union, representing nearly 1,200 casino dealers in Atlantic City, also supports closing the casino smoking loophole.
Earlier this year, Assemblyman Don Guardian, D-Atlantic, the former mayor of Atlantic City, summed up his position by saying:
“I don’t want to take away your right to kill yourself by smoking. I do want to take away your right to kill someone else by smoking in a casino.”
However, several noteworthy groups oppose the smoking ban in S264, including:
- Casino Association of New Jersey
- Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce
- Chamber of Commerce of Southern New Jersey
- New Jersey Association of Area Agencies on Aging
- Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small Sr.
- UNITE HERE Local 54
AC casinos fear losing gamblers
The Smoke-Free Air Act of 2006 exempted AC casinos from an indoor smoking ban. Currently, up to 25% of the gaming floors in Atlantic City’s nine casinos can be designated smoking areas.
Atlantic City casinos say an outright smoking ban would put them at a competitive disadvantage. The CANJ estimates that the area could lose 20% to 25% of annual in-person casino revenue.
Those who favor the ban point to non-smoking casino properties, some of which – such as MGM National Harbor – outperform Atlantic City’s casinos. Twenty states, including neighboring New York, do not allow smoking inside gaming facilities.
In a statement Thursday following the report by POLITICO, Cynthia Hallett, president and CEO of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, said, in part:
“We’re thrilled that New Jersey lawmakers will hold a much-anticipated vote to end indoor smoking in casinos and protect the lives of thousands of Atlantic City casino workers…By closing the casino smoking loophole, Atlantic City casinos will join the growing number of casinos and states that are going 100% smokefree indoors and attracting a new generation of guests who prefer a smokefree experience.”