Casino Smoking Opposition Group Celebrates Atlantic City Council Vote
Posted on: September 1, 2021, 01:46h.
Last updated on: September 1, 2021, 06:19h.
A recent resolution passed by the Atlantic City Council supports extinguishing a loophole that allows tobacco use inside New Jersey gaming resorts. The move was cheered by a leading advocacy group opposing casino smoking.
During its August 25 meeting, the Atlantic City Council voted in favor of a resolution that issues the council’s support of New Jersey Senate Bill 1878. The legislation seeks to end the indoor smoking ban exemption for casinos and simulcasting facilities.
Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights (ANSR) thanked the Atlantic City Council in a statement issued today.
This is a positive step forward to ensure that casino employees are not forced to choose between their health and a paycheck,” declared Cynthia Hallett, ANSR president and CEO.
New Jersey’s Smoke-Free Air Act of 2006 provided Atlantic City casinos immunity from the law. While nearly all other indoor public places must prohibit indoor smoking, casinos are able to designate up to 25 percent of their gaming floors for smoking.
Smoking Ban Odds Long
Atlantic City casinos are adamantly against banning indoor smoking. Industry officials argue such a mandate would put a damper on revenues, a claim anti-smoking advocates reject.
Casinos in several parts of the nation have reported strong play while temporarily banning cigarette smoking indoors. One such market is Pennsylvania, where casinos reported record monthly gross revenue in May despite operating smoke-free.
Hallett says there is no concrete evidence suggesting a significant impact on Atlantic City casino business if they were forced to put out smoke. But she concedes that powerful lawmakers have yet to lend their support to the fight.
“Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) remains the biggest obstacle to getting this legislation across the finish line,” Hallett explained to Casino.org. “We are building a diverse coalition of lawmakers, casino workers, businesses, and others who will help us make inaction unacceptable.”
Sweeney in May stated that New Jersey’s gaming industry is struggling amid COVID-19, and a smoking ban would “chase away a percentage of their business.”
“State legislators will have no choice but to pass this legislation during the lame duck session later this year. Tired industry arguments to keep indoor smoking no longer carry weight, especially since Atlantic City casinos thrived while operating smoke-free,” Hallett declared.
One potential supporter recruited by ANSR is New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D). The first-term governor has said the anti-casino group has made “a very compelling case.”
Bill Drags On
SB 1878 hasn’t gained much steam in the Senate chamber. The legislation has yet to advance out of any committee, and currently sits with the Senate Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee.
Supporters of the bill say it deserves more attention.
“The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that casino workers are at greater risk for lung and heart disease because of secondhand smoke, and a study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that the air in casinos can have up to 50 times more cancer-causing particles than the air on rush-hour highways,” read a statement from SB 1878 co-authors Senators Shirley Turner (D-District 15) and Joseph Vitale (D-District 19).
“This bill would protect all workers in New Jersey from the hazards of second-hand smoke by requiring that casinos and casino simulcasting facilities be smoke-free workplaces,” the lawmakers concluded.
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