Hard Rock Boss Jim Allen Meets with NJ Gov. to Discuss Atlantic City Casino Smoking

Posted on: June 7, 2022, 01:31h. 

Last updated on: June 7, 2022, 01:54h.

Hard Rock International Chairman and Seminole Gaming CEO Jim Allen recently met with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) to discuss the escalating controversy regarding smoking inside Atlantic City casinos.

Hard Rock Atlantic City casino smoking New Jersey
Hard Rock International Chair Jim Allen speaks at the company’s casino resort in Atlantic City. Allen recently met with New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy to express his concerns regarding a state effort to ban indoor casino smoking. (Image: AP)

Allen told the Associated Press that it wasn’t his intent to change Murphy’s position regarding pending legislation in Trenton that seeks to eliminate tobacco use on the gaming floors. Murphy has repeatedly expressed his support for ending the clean indoor air loophole the casinos have been afforded since New Jersey passed its Smoke-Free Air Act in 2006.

I don’t think I was trying to change the governor’s mind. It was a general conversation about the economic challenges of a smoking ban and the impact it would have,” Allen explained.

Allen oversees the Hard Rock empire, which is owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Hard Rock’s current portfolio counts 13 casino resorts. Along with its hotels and cafes, Hard Rock International has 253 locations in 68 countries.

Seminole Gaming is the parent company of the tribe’s six owned and operated casinos in Florida.

Industry Fighting to Maintain Status Quo

Two identical pieces of legislation that would eliminate the casinos’ current privilege of designating up to 25% of their floor space for indoor smoking have gained much support in Trenton. At least 54 state lawmakers are now sponsoring Senate Bill 264/Assembly Bill 2151.

The bills remain in their respective chamber’s health committee. As the statutes linger under consideration, the Atlantic City gaming industry is campaigning to convince lawmakers to reject the legislation.

The Casino Association of New Jersey (CANJ), which is headed by Hard Rock Atlantic City President Joe Lupo, whose boss is Allen, has been consistent in its opposition to SB 264/AB 2151.

CANJ, which lobbies the New Jersey government on behalf of each of the nine casinos, says a smoking ban would cut into gaming revenues. And that could lead to a negative trickle-down effect that would hurt the properties resort-wide, industry reps claim. Along with reduced operating revenue, the casinos say jobs could be lost.

We operate in many states where smoking is not allowed,” Allen said following his meeting with Murphy. “When you look at markets where smoking has been banned, there have been significant double-digit declines in casino revenue.”

The thinking among Atlantic City gaming industry leaders is that smoke-free floors would result in smokers taking their business to casinos in nearby Philadelphia. Smoking is fully banned on casino floors in Delaware.

Health Over Dollars

The industry’s claim that a smoking ban in Atlantic City would reduce brick-and-mortar gaming revenue remains up for debate. Some critics argue gaming fared just fine during mandatory smoking bans amid the pandemic. Regardless, casino workers say their health should come first.

New Jersey legislators should not take seriously casinos crying poor and claiming the sky will fall if they end the outdated business practice of allowing indoor smoking. It’s about protecting their workers’ health, period,” said Cynthia Hallett, president and CEO of “Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights (ANR).” The ANR helped organize “CEASE — Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects.”

“How many cancer diagnoses, heart attacks, and pregnant women breathing secondhand smoke while dealing tables games are enough to spur action? The good news is that nearly half of all legislators in each chamber are co-sponsoring the bipartisan bills to eliminate the 16-year-old casino smoking loophole. Now it’s time to hold a hearing and bring the bills to a full floor vote — we know they will pass with flying colors,” Hallett declared.