Atlantic City Casino Smoking Opponents to Form Political Action Committee

Posted on: December 15, 2023, 10:14h. 

Last updated on: December 15, 2023, 08:15h.

Atlantic Casino smoking opponents are ramping up their lobbying power and influence in New Jersey by forming a political action committee (PAC).

Atlantic City casino smoking CEASE
Members of CEASE, Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects, rally on the Atlantic City Boardwalk on Nov. 29, 2023. CEASE is forming a political action committee to contribute to politicians and candidates who support smoke-free gaming. (Image: AP)

CEASE, Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects, tells it plans to form a PAC. The news comes after state lawmakers in Trenton flip-flopped on supporting legislation to force the nine casinos in Atlantic City to go smoke-free.

Under the current law, the casinos can designate a quarter of their gaming floor for tobacco use. CEASE members say it’s long overdue that they’re afforded clean indoor workplaces like nearly all other workers in New Jersey.

The grassroots coalition is most upset with state Sen. Vince Polistina (R-Atlantic) for changing his stance. After initially supporting CEASE and legislation to end the casino smoking loophole provided through the state’s 2006 Smokefree Air Act, Polistina says the state should give the casinos time to come up with solutions to satisfy the workers who don’t want to be exposed to secondhand smoke.

The casinos say there are solutions other than a complete smoking ban. They’ve floated the idea of enclosed smoking rooms where slot machines would operate, and no employees unwilling to work in such areas would be required to do so.

Anti-Smoking PAC Formation

CEASE will formally register its PAC with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission in the coming weeks.

Transitioning from a grassroots coalition to a PAC will allow CEASE to raise funds and make political contributions to lawmakers and candidates supportive of their mission. Polistina likely won’t be getting any CEASE PAC money.

Vince Polistina has revealed himself to be untrustworthy. After coming to our first rally in August 2021 … speaking out on our behalf at every turn, he’s now copying and pasting casino executive talking points and attempting to present them as a credible solution. It’s shameful and disgusting,” said Pete Naccarelli, CEASE co-founder and an Atlantic City table games dealer.

“[Polistina] has now chosen to be a front for the casinos rather than a backstop for his constituents. Don’t be fooled. He isn’t sticking up for us to protect our health,” Naccarelli stated.

During this week’s New Jersey Senate Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee’s deliberation of Senate Bill 264, a measure that would end casino smoking, a CEASE advocate lit up a cigarette. He was escorted out of the State House, but not before giving the committee members a piece of his mind.

“We’re not allowed to smoke in here? We’re not allowed to smoke in your workplace?” the man asked. “But you can smoke in our workplace.”

Casino Smoking Future

State Sen. Joe Vitale (D-Middlesex) believes his S264 legislation will pass when a new state legislature is sworn in in January. Democrats, who appear more supportive of a smoking ban, will maintain their control of both chambers.

CEASE is hopeful a new Senate makeup will result in more support for clean air inside casinos.

We have built people power over the last two-and-a-half years with thousands of Atlantic City casino employees coming together to fight for our lives. We were all new to politics. But we’ve learned that pressure and accountability are critical, and we plan to use a new PAC to support those who support us — through thick and thin,” Naccarelli said.

“We are fighting for our lives and will battle on all fronts to pass this legislation to end indoor smoking at our workplaces,” Naccarelli concluded.