Posted on: January 27, 2022, 11:37h.
Last updated on: January 27, 2022, 11:37h.
2022 is nearly a month in, and Atlantic City casino smoking opponents are growing impatient with New Jersey state lawmakers who continue to show little enthusiasm in extinguishing tobacco on gaming floors.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) and elected politicians in Trenton recently signed off on two measures that benefit the nine casinos in Atlantic City by way of reduced taxes. But when it comes to legislation benefiting the health of casino workers and patrons, anti-smoking advocates say the state has been all smoke and mirrors.
Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects (CEASE) cofounder Pete Naccarelli is a table game dealer at MGM Resorts’ Borgata. The Marina District casino is one of many that takes the advantage of being permitted to designate up to 25 percent of its gaming space for smoking.
You wouldn’t understand the feeling you get when being on a game and someone walks up and you see them have a cigarette in their hand,” Naccarelli said in a recent CEASE statement. “You’re just begging, ‘Please don’t sit at my game.'”
Bipartisan Bill Introduced
A bipartisan group of New Jersey lawmakers has already introduced legislation in 2022 that seeks to end the clean indoor air loophole afforded to Atlantic City casinos.
Senate Bill 264 would extinguish the smoking ban exemption for both casinos and simulcasting facilities. The bill would maintain the indoor smoking exemption for cigar lounges.
The statute would effectively amend the New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act, which went into effect on April 15, 2006.
The casinos argue that eliminating their indoor smoking provision would hurt their COVID-19 recovery. Casinos in the nearby Philadelphia region are permitted to designate as much as 50 percent of their gaming space for smoking.
Hard Rock Atlantic City President Joe Lupo, who is also the president of the Casino Association of New Jersey, says casinos cater to both smokers and nonsmokers. He points to the fact that indoor smoking is limited to the specific area of the casino floor, and that all other public spaces inside the resorts are fully smoke-free.
Banning smoking completely and permanently would have long-term financial implications for the industry and the region, placing Atlantic City casinos at a competitive advantage with Pennsylvania casinos,” Lupo opened.
Lupo added that a full smoking ban would result in job losses, tax revenue declines, and economic hardship on workers who do remain by way of fewer tips due to reduced customer volume.
2021 was a record year for the entirety of the New Jersey gaming industry. But for Atlantic City’s brick-and-mortar operations, gross gaming revenue last year remained almost five percent below pre-pandemic 2019 market conditions.
Advocates Pressure Murphy
Murphy narrowly avoided being upset during the November election. The Democratic governor was sworn into his second term last week.
With the governor officially in for another four years, the anti-smoking crowd states that some of their Murphy votes were only due to the governor repeatedly declaring in 2021 that he’s supportive of banning casino.
“Now that he’s officially begun his new term, it’s time for him to press the case for legislators to get this done. Every day that goes by is another day we risk our health at work,” said CEASE cofounder Lamont White.