Atlantic City casino workers are asking Gov. Phil Murphy to urge the legislature to send him a bill by April to sign that would end smoking in the Garden State’s nine gaming halls.
Bill S1878/A4541 pending in the state legislature would eliminate the smoking ban exemption for casinos and simulcasting facilities.
A letter dated Jan. 5 from the co-founders and co-leaders of Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects (CEASE) called on Murphy to push lawmakers to pass bipartisan legislation to close the casino smoking loophole by April 15.
A handful of New Jersey legislators want to remove the loophole in the state law which allows Atlantic City casinos to permit indoor smoking.
.@starledger Editorial Board supports calls by AC casino workers to pass legislation to close the casino smoking loophole by April 15th, the 17th anniversary of the state’s clean indoor act covering all workplaces, except casinos. https://t.co/WypF3Zo3GO
— Smokefree Casinos (@CasinoSmokefree) January 10, 2023
Atlantic City casino employees fight for smoking ban
While running for re-election, Murphy said he supported banning smoking inside AC casinos.
“You should assume that I will sign it,” Murphy said in September about the casino smoking ban bill.
Atlantic City’s governing body supports the state Senate’s casino smoking ban bill. A local ordinance permits smoking inside Atlantic City casinos on no more than 25% of the gaming floor.
The April date marks 17 years since the legislature passed the Clean Indoor Air Act that created the loophole in the first place.
The letter from CEASE states:
“When you deliver your State of the State address on Tuesday (Jan. 10), we are asking that you call on legislative leaders to send bipartisan legislation to close the casino smoking loophole to your desk by April 15.
“The state of our health is poor, and it’s past time for the state to address it. We must feed our families and pay the bills; therefore we must also breathe the dangerous secondhand smoke being blown into our faces for eight hours a day. As a result, too many of us have been dealt diagnoses of cancer, heart disease, asthma, and more. We’ve had to breathe this poison through pregnancies while receiving treatment for cancer, and while wondering what exactly is happening to our health as yet another smoker lights up three feet in front of us, not giving a damn about our well-being.”
However, Atlantic City casinos contend that indoor smoking is a necessary element of business in a highly competitive region.
“Going completely nonsmoking would place Atlantic City casinos at a competitive disadvantage with other nearby casinos that allow smoking,” the Casino Association of New Jersey said in a statement. “A smoking ban would have a significant adverse effect on Atlantic City, resulting in a decline in customers which would cause job loss, and ultimately a decline in tax revenue.”
History of smoking bans in Atlantic City casinos
Between March 16, 2020 and July 4, 2021, smoking inside Atlantic City casinos was temporarily banned because of COVID-19. The ban was lifted when New Jersey rolled back most pandemic restrictions.
“Ever since indoor smoking returned to our workplaces on July 4, 2021, we have been fighting to protect our health by closing the casino smoking loophole in New Jersey law that gives the casinos a special exemption that no other business receives,” the letter from CEASE states.
The American Gaming Association, the lobbying group for all commercial and tribal casinos in the US, does not have an official position on casino smoking.
But, AGA President and CEO Bill Miller has said casino operators who have either been smoke-free or pivoted to a smoking ban have not been hurt financially.