There have been many groups lobbying for the banning of smoking in casinos across the country. New Jersey has been one of the states whose casino workers and private groups have been on the front line campaigning against smoking on gaming floors.
Following the 16th anniversary of the state’s law banning indoor smoking in public places except in casinos, casino workers and private groups have intensified the campaigns.
Over 100 Atlantic City casino workers asked state lawmakers on April 12 to ban smoking on gaming floors. The call came in the middle of the Atlantic City casino market, trying to regain its lost glory from the Coronavirus pandemic. Moreover, the neighboring state, New York, is trying to open more casinos to drive more clients out of Atlantic City.
Some Unions support the banning of smoking in casinos, while some have opposing opinions. The United Auto Workers, representing around 22k employees at the nine resorts in the city, have different opinions.
The union entered the Atlantic City gambling industry in 2007 following a union formed by table games dealers at the Tropicana. Today, the union represents 1,200 table games dealers at Tropicana, Bally’s, and Caesars.
Earlier this week, the United Auto Workers Region 9 in Cherry Hill asked lawmakers to pass a law banning indoor smoking at casinos. According to the union’s Regional Director Jeffrey Binz, some of the union’s members sit inches away from smoking patrons.
Binz noted that most of these patrons blew smoke directly toward table games dealers for over seven hours each day. The regional director also said that such actions should be unacceptable, especially when considering the dangers of secondhand smoke.
The legislature has been trying to eliminate the clean indoor air loophole allowing Atlantic City casinos to allow smoking on casino floors since 2006. But, the casino industry is heavily opposing a smoke ban claiming that it would put casinos at a disadvantage with other casinos in neighboring states such as Pennsylvania.
Unite Here Local 54 is another casino workers union in the state. It has over 10k casino workers. The union’s President, Bob McDevitt, is of the opinion that smoking in casinos should continue.
Bob pointed to the Casino Association of New Jersey research that showed that banning smoking in casinos would hurt their business. The research shows that patrons would not visit Atlantic City casinos if they banned smoking, affecting the annual gaming income. According to Bob, a reduction of visitation to casinos would lead to most people losing their jobs.
On the other hand, the Union Auto Workers insist that ongoing health consequences are scarier than losing jobs. The union explains that it has heard of the financial scares casinos have laid out. Yet, statistics released by Disease Control and Prevention about secondhand smoke are scarier. Binz insists that casinos would continue to thrive even without indoor smoking, causing a slow death to employees.
Assembly Bill 2151 and Senate Bill 264 are similar legislations looking to end smoking in casinos. But, 28 assembly persons and 15 senators supporting the bills are yet to do anything about the bills since they were introduced in their respective chambers.
The Senate bill was introduced in January and has sat with Human Services, the Senior Citizens Committee, and the Senate Health Committee. The Assembly bill was introduced in February and is still sitting with the Assembly Health Committee.