The retired Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian supports the anti-smoking rule in casinos. Guardian has been the Atlantic City mayor since 1990. He served for one term before losing reelection in 2017.
Guardian is still holding a government position as New Jersey's lawmaker. In November, he won the state seat and became a lawmaker through the General Assembly's Second District.
Barely a month since he acquired his new role, the former city mayor is cosponsoring a casino smoking ban bill. Don is working hand-in-hand with Assemblywoman Claire Swift to prohibit casino smoking in casinos in Atlantic City. The two are Republicans representing Atlantic County.
The proposed bill was introduced on February 7. Several assembly members, including Herb Conaway for Burlington, Paul Moriarty for Gloucester, and Willian Moen for Camden, introduced A2151. The new bill is similar to Senate Bill 264.
New Jersey has a 2006 Smoke-Free Air Act. This act exempts Atlantic City casinos from the law prohibiting indoor smoking in public properties and venues.
The law allows casinos to give up to 25 percent gaming floor for smoking. This means that patrons can smoke in some parts of the gaming floor. Yet, Marty Small Sr., current Atlantic City Mayor, has not clarified where he stands regarding the smoking issue.
Republicans Are Supporting the Democrats
The anti-smoking casino legislation was a Democratic-led campaign. But, Republicans have also joined the efforts.
Democrats introduced the S 264 bill in the Senate just like the A 2151 was authored by Democrats. In January, Joe Vitale representing Middlesex and Shirley Turner of Mercer got GOP support after introducing a new bill. According to Swift, the two political parties want to do everything to support casino workers.
Fortunately, casino workers are on-board to change the permit, allowing casinos to allow smoking in 25 percent of the gaming floor. Through the Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects, the workers are campaigning against smoking.
Some casino dealers have expressed how they cringe when a smoking client sits at their table. According to the Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects spokesperson, workers are tired and sick of the smoke.
Casinos Oppose the Changes
While one group is campaigning for the smoking ban, another is opposing scraping on the proposed bills. The Casino Association of New Jersey represents the needs of casinos.
According to this association, banning smoking in casinos will reduce revenue generation. To date, nine of Atlantic City's casinos' gross gaming revenue has not returned to pre-pandemic levels. The land-based casinos generated $2.55 billion in 2021, 4.9 percent less than the 2019's income of 2.68 billion.
The president of Hard Rock Atlantic City says that smoke-free casinos would put casinos in the city at a disadvantage. These casinos are close to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that have allocated 50percent of their gaming floor to smoking.
Recently, New Jersey removed Atlantic City's iGaming revenue from annual collective property tax. Stephen Sweeney was behind the new changes. He believed that four casinos would have closed down if they continued to pay taxes for their online gaming revenue.
Sweeney, the former Senate President, did not specify which four casinos were in danger of closing. Last month, he left the government position to be replaced by Nicholas Scutari, who won the election last year.