Atlantic City Casino Smoking Ban Gains Additional Support

Posted on: February 2, 2022, 08:32h. 

Last updated on: February 3, 2022, 09:28h.

The days of Atlantic City casino smoking permeating gaming floors might be nearing extinguishment.

Atlantic City casino smoking New Jersey
New Jersey state Senator Vince Polistina (R-Atlantic County) marches in solidarity with Atlantic City casino smoking opponents on December 9, 2021. Polistina’s crusade to end casino smoking has garnered bipartisan support. (Image: Associated Press)

A legislative effort in the Trenton capital continues to gain support from state lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle. The latest to join the anti-smoking crusade is state Sen. Michael Testa (R-Cape May).

Casino workers should have the same right to work in a safe and healthy environment as any other worker in our state,” Testa said of his backing. “We can both protect the health of casino workers and their guests while safeguarding our state’s thriving gaming industry.”

Testa is throwing his support behind Senate Bill 264. The legislation is a clone of S.1878 and Assembly Bill 4541, which both failed to gain muster during the 2021 legislative session.

S.264 is now supported by two Republicans and five Democratic state lawmakers.

Worker Safety

Atlantic City casinos were afforded partial immunity from the 2006 New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act. The gaming floors are permitted to designate up to 25 percent for indoor smoking.

Many casino workers are urging state lawmakers to concentrate on their personal health as much as the financial well-being of the nine Atlantic City casinos.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (D) recently signed legislation that will reduce the collective amount of property taxes the casinos will pay this year by $55 million. The payment-in-lieu-of-tax (PILOT) change lowers the casinos’ property taxes by removing iGaming and mobile sportsbook income from their tax calculation.

Casino Employees Against Smoke’s Effects (CEASE) argue eliminating indoor casino smoking is a worthy initiative, too.

“We thank Senator Testa for co-sponsoring this bipartisan legislation after meeting with us and hearing our concerns about our health,” said CEASE spokesperson and Borgata table games dealer Nicole Vitola.

“We have support from Republicans and Democrats, as well as legislators across New Jersey because they recognize that it’s wrong to treat us differently than every other worker in our state. Senator Testa understands the urgency of our fight and we are grateful that he is joining us to get this bill across the finish line,” Vitola added.

No Clean Bill of Health for Casinos

Joe Lupo, president of Hard Rock Atlantic City, who additionally heads the Casino Association of New Jersey, maintains that now is not the time to consider regulations that could potentially impede business at the resorts.

Any policy changes that will result in decreased visitation, job loss, and additional economic harm to our region should be the last thing we consider as the industry works diligently to rebuild and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Lupo said.

The New Jersey gaming industry enjoyed a banner year in terms of revenue. But brick-and-mortar operations at Atlantic City casinos remained depressed from pre-pandemic conditions.

Gross gaming revenue from land-based slot machines and table games totaled $2.55 billion in 2021. Though that was a 69 percent recovery in 2020, the casino number is still 4.9 percent lower than what the casinos won in 2019.