Atlantic City casinos should ban smoking now, say lawyers and dealers

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Tobacco control advocates who want Atlantic City casinos banning people from lighting indoors took their case at the gambling industry’s largest annual gathering in Las Vegas.

Americans for the rights of non-smokers (ANR) held a press conference during World gaming fair (G2E) to The Venetian exhibition denounce smoking inside casinos. Atlantic City table game dealers behind the Facebook group Casino workers against the effects of smoking (CEASE) also expressed its opposition.

The groups say the ongoing coronavirus pandemic makes the problem all the more urgent.

Cynthia hallettANR president and CEO said COVID-19 has raised awareness of respiratory health in the public. Avoiding places that endanger health will be a lasting effect of the pandemic that casinos should adapt to, she said.

“The pandemic has brought about a sea change in the way businesses, including the gaming industry, think about safe and healthy workplaces and how not smoking can help,” Hallet said.

Smoking ban equates to lost business, according to Atlantic City casinos

Atlantic City casinos claim that smoking indoors, which is allowed on 25% of the playing surface, is a necessary part of doing business in a highly competitive region.

“Going completely smoke-free would put Atlantic City casinos at a competitive disadvantage compared to other nearby casinos that allow smoking,” he added. New Jersey Casino Association said in a statement. “A smoking ban would have a significant negative effect on Atlantic City, resulting in a decline in customer base that would result in job losses and ultimately lower tax revenues.”

Correlation does not equal causality

Groups like the ANR say the casino industry’s narrative of falling profits is false. Almost half of the states that have legalized gambling, 160 tribal casinos and more than 1,100 US casinos prohibit smoking indoors.

Specifically, tobacco control advocates point to Atlantic City casinos and the recent COVID-related smoking ban. In the first quarter of 2021 (non-smoking), AC casino profits increased by almost 11% compared to the pre-pandemic 2019 period (authorized smokers).

However, this may not be as strong an argument as anti-smoking groups believe.

Atlantic City casino profits increased in 2021 due to triple-digit percentage increases in online gaming and sports betting. Casinos have also experienced massive reductions in manpower and promotional spending. NJ land-based casinos revenues, business volumes, and all other quantifiable industry metrics declined significantly in early 2021 compared to 2019.

Dealers Support Smoke-Free Workplaces

Between March 16, 2020 and July 4, 2021, smoking inside Atlantic City casinos was temporarily banned due to COVID-19. The ban was lifted when New Jersey rolled back most pandemic restrictions.

“It pissed me off,” said Lamont White, an AC casino dealer and member of CEASE. “I couldn’t believe that after a year of fresh air the smoke was coming back.”

Nicole vitola, CEASE member and AC reseller, said casinos put “profit before health”.

“When I speak of the blatant disregard for our well-being, I’m not doing it just for myself. I do this for every casino employee who can’t speak for themselves or is afraid of losing their job.

“Unreasonable Choice” for Atlantic City Casino Workers

Atlantic City Casino Dealer and CEASE Member Pete naccarelli (photo, right) said even some supervisors and senior managers were in favor of a smoking ban. But, they are reluctant to denounce the status quo, he said.

“We have the feeling that a lot of people are behind us, not against us,” said Naccarelli.

Hallet, the ANR executive, said casino workers were forced to make an “unreasonable choice … between their health and a salary”.

“Secondhand smoke is more than a nuisance,” she said. “It’s a health hazard and companies are forced to eliminate the known and preventable causes of illness and disability. “

Will Trenton make any effort to make Atlantic City casinos smoke-free?

A handful of New Jersey lawmakers want to remove the loophole in state law that allows AC casinos to allow smoking indoors. None of the bill’s current sponsors represent the districts of southern New Jersey.

Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat running for reelection, supports the smoking ban in Atlantic City casinos.

“You should assume I will sign it,” Murphy said in September of the casino smoking ban bill.

Atlantic City’s governing body supports the state Senate bill to ban smoking in casinos. A local ordinance allows smoking inside Atlantic City casinos on no more than 25% of the playing surface.

Main picture: AP Photo / Wayne Parry

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