Atlantic City Casino Union Issues Support for Smoking Ban

Posted on: December 13, 2023, 03:48h. 

Last updated on: December 13, 2023, 10:50h.

A union that represents table game dealers inside Atlantic City casinos is supportive of efforts to force the nine gaming floors to go smoke-free through state legislation.

Atlantic City casino smoking UAW Shawn Fain
United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain during this year’s contract negotiations with General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis. Fain, whose union represents table game dealers in Atlantic City, wants New Jersey lawmakers to make the casinos go smoke-free. (Image: UAW)

The United Auto Workers (UAW) represents dealers at three casinos in town, Caesars, Bally’s, and Tropicana. A condition of those workers’ ongoing employment is being subjected to dangerous secondhand smoke.

Shawn Fain, the international president of the union, which is the 12th-largest labor organization in the United States, this week lent his backing to state efforts to end the Atlantic City casino smoking loophole.

Thousands of UAW members … are exposed on a daily basis to the toxic harms of secondhand smoking,” Fain wrote in submitted testimony to state lawmakers. “Patrons blow cigarette/tobacco smoke directly into their faces for eight hours, and due to the nature of their work, table dealers are unable to take their eyes away from the table, so they bear through the thick smoke that surrounds their workplace.”

Currently, smoking on Atlantic City floors is allowed in designated areas. Each casino is limited to allowing tobacco smoking on 25% of its gaming floor space.

Divisive Issue

Legislation to end the casino smoking allowance created through the New Jersey Smokefree Air Act passed in 2006 has been lingering in the State House since 2021. The current legislation, Senate Bill 264 and Assembly Bill 2151, was introduced in January 2022.

The identical statutes already have enough bipartisan support by way of cosponsors to move out of their respective chambers. Despite the widespread backing, the Senate Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee failed to forward SB264 when it considered the measure on November 30.

State Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Northern Middlesex), who introduced the Senate’s casino smoking bill and chairs the chamber’s health committee, said he was one vote shy of having the simple majority needed to advance the statute. Committee Republicans said they need more time to weigh input submitted from the casinos, which argue a smoking ban would decrease gaming and result in an estimated 2,500 job cuts.

The casinos have the support of Unite Here Local 54, the labor union that represents about 10K resort workers in Atlantic City. Unite Here doesn’t represent gaming workers as the UAW does, but instead supports waitstaff, bartenders, cooks, porters, and housekeepers.

Local 54 President Donna DeCaprio said in July that a casino smoking prohibition “would be a suicide pact.”

Grassroots Movement

Many casino workers, including those represented by UAW, say their careers are risking their health. The push to extinguish casino smoking has been led by a grassroots coalition called Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects, or CEASE.

We have been the only workers in our state forced to choose between our health and a paycheck. It’s been nearly two decades,” read a statement provided to by CEASE.

Fain agrees.

“Workers should leave work in the same condition they arrived,” the UAW boss declared. “Union. Non-union. Factory, office, casino, or any workplace in between, worker safety must be the number one goal of every employer and worker throughout the state.”