Atlantic City Casinos Commission Smoking Ban Impact Study, Critics Rebuff Findings

Posted on: February 23, 2022, 01:28h. 

Last updated on: February 24, 2022, 03:39h.

The Casino Association of New Jersey (CANJ) says a smoking ban indoors on its nine Atlantic City gaming floors would have devastating consequences to the industry and region as a whole.

Atlantic City casino smoking Spectrum study CANJ
A man exhales while smoking an e-cigarette inside an Atlantic City casino in 2014. A new study claims thousands of jobs are at risk should New Jersey end indoor casino smoking in Atlantic City. (Image: Getty)

Spectrum Gaming Group, a Pennsylvania-based independent research firm focused on the US gaming industry, was contracted by CANJ. Their goal was to probe how a potential ban on indoor casino smoking in Atlantic City would impact the resorts and local economy. Its findings painted a dire picture should New Jersey lawmakers decide to end the casinos’ exemption from the state’s Smoke-Free Air Act of 2006.

The Spectrum analysis concluded that a casino smoking ban would result in as many as 2,500 job losses. With state gaming officials tallying 21,799 part- and full-time workers employed by the nine casinos at the end of 2021, Spectrum’s forecast means more than 11 percent of the workforce would be in jeopardy without indoor tobacco smoke.

Along with the job loss claims, Spectrum said forcing smokers outside would result in a nearly 11 percent decline in gross gaming revenue. They added between $17.2 million and $44 million in lost annual tax revenue for the state and City of Atlantic City.

Smoke Smokescreen?

The Spectrum probe into the consequences of prohibiting Atlantic City indoor casino smoke paints a gloomy forecast for the local gaming industry. Those who favor ending the casino clean air loophole argue the study was flawed.

“Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights (ANR)” is a leading nonprofit advocacy that is working to eliminate indoor tobacco smoke almost everywhere other than private residences. ANR’s “Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects” — or CEASE — was quick to reject the Spectrum findings.

This study, paid for by the casino industry, shows once again that they care more about outdated business practices than they do about the lives and health of their workers,” said Nicole Vitola, CEASE coleader. “Casinos’ blatant disregard for our well-being is disgraceful.”

Spectrum says its analysis was based on other commercial gaming markets that instituted smoking bans, including Delaware, Illinois, and New Orleans. The research additionally assumes that Pennsylvania will continue to allow its casinos to designate indoor smoking areas.

Vitola says the Casino Association of New Jersey study is a compilation of “scare tactics.”

CEASE additionally cites a quote from Bill Miller, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association, who stated last year that casinos that have gone smoke-free amid the COVID-19 pandemic did so “without detrimental effect” or “a decrease in business.”

Industry Defends Report

Joe Lupo, Hard Rock Atlantic City president, has led the Casino Association of New Jersey since last fall. He says the Spectrum smoking review should be a wake-up call for legislators who are backing efforts to extinguish indoor smoke on Atlantic City gaming floors.

Calling the casino industry the “economic backbone of South Jersey,” Lupo contends that a smoking ban would result in a decline in customers, gaming revenue, jobs, and taxes.

This independent report was commissioned to ensure a complete understanding of the ramifications of a ban on the city and the region,” Lupo said. “Now is not the time to enact a smoking ban.”

Lupo adds that Atlantic City casino employment is already at a 20-year low, as is the overall visitation to the gaming town. The Hard Rock boss additionally cited that brick-and-mortar gaming last year remained down nearly five percent from pre-pandemic 2019.