Bill still pending Legislature treatment

Atlantic City casino workers reject "half-baked" designated outdoor smoking area proposal

2022-08-10
Reading time 1:48 min

Casino workers in Atlantic City who have been battling indoor smoking are showing rejection of the idea to create designated outdoor smoking areas that employees could opt out of staffing. The proposal is being floated among state legislators, as they seek ways in which to tackle the issue.

Pete Naccarelli, a dealer at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, and leader of a group of Atlantic City casino workers pushing for a full indoor smoking ban, said Tuesday the opt-out suggestion is not the solution to protect workers and customers, as it “only forces workers to risk their health for a paycheck."

A casino worker living paycheck to paycheck should not have to risk their health by working in a smoking area to get by. But that’s exactly what would happen, and the most vulnerable workers would suffer the most. Legislators should recognize the problematic scenario this would create, and reject this half-baked idea," Naccarelli stated, according to the Associated Press

The idea of creating true outdoor smoking areas is viable, Atlantic City dealers have said, but only as long as no worker is exposed to second-hand smoke. However, having any employee assigned to those areas has been labeled as not acceptable by casino workers.

A bill seeking to ban smoking inside Atlantic City’s nine casinos has been pending treatment in the Democrat-controlled state Legislature since February. An identical bill died in last year’s session, even though Gov. Phil Murphy said he would sign it if it passes. No legislative committee hearings have yet been scheduled for the bill, despite half the state Legislature having signed on as sponsors or co-sponsors. 

The bill would close a loophole in New Jersey’s indoor smoking law that makes casinos virtually the only indoor workplaces in the state where smoking continues to be allowed.  

The Casino Association of New Jersey, the trade association for Atlantic City’s casinos, opposes a smoking ban, claiming it would lead to job revenue losses. Smoking opponents reject those assertions, pointing to places in other states where non-smoking casinos are outperforming competitors that allow it.

recent report by C3 Gaming argues casino smoking bans are no longer a cause of revenue drop. “It has been a long-held belief that statewide smoking bans have an immediate negative impact on gaming revenue," the report reads. "This was amply demonstrated in bans implemented in Delaware, Colorado, Illinois, Deadwood SD, and New Orleans."

But what is rarely discussed "are the other mitigating factors that contributed to those initial declines," the study argues. "Also rarely mentioned is that, while gaming revenues declined during the first year that smoking bans were implemented, those revenues tended to recover in subsequent years."

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