Atlantic City Casino Smoking Opponents Say Tobacco Ban Would Help Responsible Play

Posted on: September 2, 2022, 12:38h. 

Last updated on: September 2, 2022, 12:54h.

Atlantic City casino workers who want indoor smoking extinguished say a tobacco ban on the nine gaming floors would better encourage responsible play.

Atlantic City casino smoking New Jersey
A slot machine gambler at Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City on February 10, 2022. Atlantic City casino smoking opponents say making the gaming floors smoke-free would encourage more responsible play. (Image: AP)

“Casino Employees Against Smoking’s Effects” (CEASE) is a growing coalition of Atlantic City casino workers. They say state lawmakers and the casinos should value their health and personal well-being over profits. CEASE members argue that they deserve the same clean indoor air workplaces afforded to most other employees.

New Jersey’s 2006 Smoke-Free Air Act allows Atlantic City casinos to set aside up to 25% of their gaming space for indoor smoking.

The American Gaming Association (AGA) kicked off its first Responsible Gaming Education Month yesterday with the release of the lobbying group’s latest edition of the “Responsible Gaming Statutes and Regulations Guide.” CEASE claims that smoke-free policies in Atlantic City would help many problem gamblers call it quits during losing runs. The required smoke breaks, CEASE believes, would temporarily suspend their play and perhaps lead to some deciding to walk away.

Unfortunately, we often see far too many guests betting money they don’t have, trapped in cycles of gambling. This is especially true for guests who are allowed to smoke continuously while playing,” said Nicole Vitola, co-leader of CEASE.

“We know that if smokers must take breaks and step outside, they would be far better off, as would the casino workers and table game dealers who are forced to breathe secondhand smoke,” Vitola added.

Smoking Ban a Win-Win, Group Claims

A cornerstone of responsible gaming is keeping gambling fun. Experts say gambling should never be viewed as a way to make money, but simply as a form of entertainment, not unlike purchasing a concert or movie ticket. 

Chasing losses is something many gamblers do, and something every responsible gaming professional seeks to discourage. The need for a smoker to go outside when the craving hits, CEASE says, would lead to more cooling-off periods for gamblers chasing losses. But it could also help those on winning streaks opt to quit while they’re ahead.

“As casino employees, we are regularly trained on industry best practices and serve as a first point of contact for promoting responsible gaming,” Vitola explained.

“The reality is that the industry can and should do more to put action behind their words this month about how seriously they take this issue. It’s completely hypocritical for the industry to take credit for promoting responsible gaming while they cling to antiquated smoking policies that trap guests into long stretches of gambling and greatly impact the health and well-being of their entire workforce,” Vitola concluded.

Industry Response

The Atlantic City casino industry, represented in the Trenton capital by the Casino Association of New Jersey (CANJ), remains opposed to a cessation of indoor smoking. The casinos say banning cigarettes would put the properties at a competitive disadvantage with casinos in nearby Philadelphia, where indoor smoking remains permissible in designated areas.

CANJ believes a smoking ban would hurt gaming revenue by as much as 25% and result in upwards of 2,500 job losses.

The casinos were dealt a bad hand earlier this week after New Jersey Superior Court Judge Michael Blee tossed out the resorts’ amended property tax agreement with the state. That would have saved the nine properties $55 million this year alone. Blee ruled that the state wrongly gave preferential tax treatment to the casinos.