Atlantic City Casino Smoking Opponents Urge VP Kamala Harris to Join Smoke-Free Fight
Posted on: July 18, 2022, 11:18h.
Last updated on: July 19, 2022, 11:52h.
Atlantic City casino smoking remains permitted in designated areas at each of the nine resorts. A group trying to eliminate the gaming industry’s clean indoor air loophole wants Vice President Kamala Harris to realize the health dangers workers are subjected to as she arrives in town today.
Harris is set to speak this afternoon at the 113th NAACP National Convention at the Atlantic City Convention Center.
In order to create a more fair, equal, and just America, we must defend and protect our rights. Tune in as I address the 113th NAACP National Convention. https://t.co/2FgIefiTva
— Vice President Kamala Harris (@VP) July 18, 2022
After delivering her address, the vice president will switch gears to focus on reproductive health, including abortions, when she meets with New Jersey state lawmakers during a roundtable planned for Harrah’s. Casino Employees Against Smoking’s Effects (CEASE) say Harris should be aware that pregnant casino workers are forced to work in toxic environments that jeopardize their health and the health of their unborn child.
“Vice President Harris should know that as she meets with legislators about reproductive rights and health in Atlantic City today, pregnant casino workers are still forced to breathe secondhand smoke that puts their health and the health of their unborn baby at risk. We are fighting to close the casino smoking loophole, because no worker should have to decide between a paycheck and their health — or their unborn child’s health,” Nicole Vitola, CEASE co-leader, told Casino.org.
New Jersey’s 2006 Smoke-Free Air Act provided exceptions for Atlantic City casinos that allows each gaming venue to permit up to 25% of their floor space for indoor smoking.
Group Claims Equity in Clean Air
A majority of the 80-member New Jersey General Assembly and 40-seat Senate back closing the Atlantic City casino smoking loophole. Two identical pieces of legislation seeking to rewrite the 2006 clean air act to include 100% of casino floors have the support of at least 43 assemblypersons and 20 state senators.
But New Jersey Senate President Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), who himself supports making casinos fully smoke-free, says the decision is a complex one that requires careful consideration — not swift action. The Senate leader says eliminating tobacco products from the gaming floors could hurt casino business.
CEASE contends that the health of casino workers is paramount to a resort’s bottom line. The group also argues eliminating smoke from the gaming floors would provide equity to minority populations.
“This is a matter of health equity, as our casino workforce is diverse, and as a result, people of color are disproportionately harmed by indoor smoking,” Vitola said.
CEASE concluded by saying that they hope Harris “will convey her support for our fight” during her stop in town.
The nine Atlantic City casinos claim smoke-free gaming floors would negatively impact annual gaming revenue by 20%-25%.
In 2021, brick-and-mortar gross gaming revenue (GGR) in Atlantic City totaled approximately $2.55 billion. While that was a 69% recovery on the pandemic-stricken 2020, the land-based haul remained about 5% below 2019, when the nine casinos won $2.68 billion.
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