Shareholders Overwhelmingly Oppose Research On Impact Of Smoking Ban Inside Casinos

Written By Grant Lucas on June 28, 2024
A customer smokes while playing slots at Hard Rock for a story on Caesars and Bally's shareholders opposing research of smoke-free casino floors.

The ongoing fight to ban smoking inside Atlantic City casinos remains, well, ongoing. But while a Superior Court judge considers his decision on a lawsuit brought forth by a group of casino employees, several ownership companies have weighed in on the matter.

Shareholders at Caesars Entertainment and Bally’s Corp., which own four of the nine Atlantic City casinos, reportedly against proposals to research the impact of banning smoking on operational costs.

Trinity Health, a nonprofit healthcare company that stands as a shareholder for several gaming companies, proposed to commission the research. Trinity and the Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation said that by allowing indoor smoking, these gaming companies could see a rise in employee health insurance premiums and maintenance costs as well as a decline in customers who don’t want to inhale second-hand smoke on the casino floor.

Shareholders, however, denied the proposal, with Caesars noting that it would not be an effective use of resources.

“We take the health of all our customers seriously,” the Caesars board of directors wrote to its shareholders, “and when we allow smoking in certain designated areas of our properties we also take steps to help protect the health of our nonsmoking customers.”

‘Companies cannot hide’ from smoking ban conversation

According to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, over 81% of votes during the Caesars annual meeting this month opposed Trinity’s proposal. Meanwhile, nearly 24 million votes went against the proposal.

Caesars operates three AC casinos, including Caesars Atlantic City, Harrah’s Atlantic City, and Tropicana Atlantic City. Of course, Bally’s owns Bally’s Atlantic City.

Despite the high percentage of opposing votes, Cynthia Hallett, CEO of the Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, remained optimistic, noting that Boyd Gaming, which does not own an Atlantic City casino, saw 22% of shareholders support the research.

“We’ve established an incredibly strong foundation from which to build,” Hallett said, as reported by Travel Weekly.

“Most proposals don’t even make it to a vote, let alone reach double-digit-level support. With this issue now reaching the boardroom, companies cannot hide from this important matter that affects the health and well-being of their employees and guests.”

Still no ruling yet on lawsuit calling for AC casino smoking ban

This all comes over a month since a Super Court judge heard arguments for a lawsuit brought forth by AC casino employees, who sued the state over alleged violations of worker protections. They claimed that casino floors are “toxic” environments as a result of smoking.

The state, meanwhile, argued that a smoking ban would lead to a reduction in overall revenue and job losses. Both the state attorney general and UNITE Here Local 54, which represents around 10,000 casino employees, requested that the suit be thrown out.

Superior Court Judge Patrick Bartels heard arguments in mid-May but did not give a decision on the matter at the time. He indicated that he intended to come to a ruling “as quickly as possible,” but there has been no movement since.

Photo by Wayne Parry / AP Photo
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Grant Lucas

Grant Lucas is a longtime sportswriter who has covered high school, collegiate, and professional levels. A graduate of Linfield College in McMinnville, Grant now focuses his attention on the growing NJ online gambling and sports betting scene.

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