New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy Extends Indoor Smoking Ban at Atlantic City Casinos

Posted on: September 4, 2020, 01:13h. 

Last updated on: September 4, 2020, 02:26h.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) is once again backtracking on a COVID-19 restriction. The first-term Democratic governor is now saying indoor smoking at Atlantic City casinos will remain prohibited.

Atlantic City casinos smoking
Atlantic City casinos will remain smoke-free on New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s orders. (Image: USA TODAY)

Earlier this week, Murphy delivered the news that countless restaurants across the Garden State had been waiting for: indoor dining can resume. As of today, September 4, New Jersey eateries can serve food and beverages inside, but at a maximum capacity of 25 percent.

Murphy originally stated that businesses that were permitted to have indoor smoking prior to the COVID-19 pandemic — casinos, for instance — could resume allowing guests to light up a cigarette or turn on their vape. But now, he says, it’s simply too risky.

Atlantic City casinos have been open since early July, but guests have been prohibited from consuming any sort of food or beverage on the casino floor. Employees and patrons must wear masks, and smoking is regulated to outdoors.

Labor Day Downer

Atlantic City casinos are losing millions of dollars each week in gaming, food and beverage, and entertainment revenue.

Indoor dining is critical to bringing people back to the beachfront gaming town. But with analysts saying nearly one-in-four Atlantic City gamblers smoke, Murphy’s extension of the indoor smoking ban certainly extinguishes some of the excitement heading into the holiday Labor Day weekend.

Reaction on social media was mixed. Nonsmokers celebrated the news, while others said Murphy is too authoritarian in his decisions. One who did support the continuation of the smoking prohibition is New Jersey Sen. Joseph Vitale (D), who chairs the Senate Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee.

“As indoor dining is set to resume in a limited capacity, I appreciate the Governor’s ban on smoking inside casinos,” Vitale said. “I am pleased he acknowledged the science and listened to those of us concerned with how smoking indoors would accelerate the spread of COVID-19.”

Lure Younger People?

Hard Rock Atlantic City President Joe Lupo said last month that the gaming town is seeing more younger visitors. The gaming exec credited movie theaters, nightclubs, and other venues popular with the demographic as part of the reason for them coming to Atlantic City.

The smoking ban could perhaps bring even more millennials to town. The age group grew up being warned about the dangers of tobacco, and as a result, are smoking at reduced rates compared with their elders.

According to polling agency Gallup, cigarette use among US adults aged 18 to 29 was 34 percent in 2005. But that rate has tumbled to 22 percent in 2015, and just 15 percent in 2018.