he new law restricts smoking to no more than 25 percent of a casino’s floor. It went into effect Sunday, exactly a year after New Jersey’s Smoke-Free Air Act prohibited cigar, cigarette and pipe smoking in restaurants, bars, private office buildings and other indoor places.
The new law is a compromise proposal reached after Atlantic City proposed banning smoking completely in all its 11 casinos. The casino industry protested, fearing the loss of 20 percent of its revenue, and as many as 3,400 jobs. So the council passed an ordinance limiting smoking to no more than 25 percent of the casino floor.
At Bally’s, signs were posted atop each bank of slot machines that read either "Smoking Prohibited" or "Smoking Permitted." Similar floor signs were placed at the entrance to corridors of table games.
The law will eventually require the casinos to build floor-to-ceiling enclosures with powerful ventilation systems to remove smoke from the air. The gambling houses have until September 15 to submit their plans to the state Department of Community affairs. They then have 90 days after the state approves the plans to begin work on the enclosures, and finish them "expeditiously."
"We’re very pleased with the cooperation of our customers and employees in following the new smoking rule changes," said Alyce Parker, a spokeswoman for Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., which owns four Atlantic City casinos including Bally’s. "We sent letters to our customer base about 10 days ago explaining the rules, and we enclosed a map of what areas would be smoking and what ones wouldn’t, and that really seems to have helped."