hat’s only because the City Council didn’t move fast enough to pass an ordinance delaying the ban from taking effect for a year. The ban may now end on October 27.
In April, the council passed a law banning smoking from the entire casino floor, but allowed casinos to set up enclosed smoking lounges away from the slot machines and table games. But casino owners say the crashing economy and plunging revenues justify putting off the smoking ban for at least a year.
Vince Rennich, a former dealer at the Tropicana Casino and Resort, blames the lung cancer he developed on breathing in second-hand smoke from gamblers over more than two decades. He said he never thought he would actually see the day when no one could smoke in an Atlantic City casino. "I was hoping and praying, but I figured they’d manage to take it away from us at the last minute," he said. "We did it. It’s monumental. It’s huge. No one thought this could happen."
He was not discouraged by the fact that the council plans to allow smoking to start up again in less than two weeks. Rather, like many casino workers here, he said clean air is like freedom: once you get a taste of it, you won’t settle for anything less. "Employees are going to love this," he said.
Peter Slocum, a vice president of the American Cancer Society, was also hopeful the ban can be made permanent. "This little taste of freedom from toxins won’t reduce the long-term risk for employees of heart attack, cancer and stroke," he said. "It will be a brief respite which hopefully we can get the council to reconsider."
The last-minute move by the council to delay the smoking ban led to considerable confusion among gamblers and employees, and sent casino operators scrambling to make sense of it all.
Harrah’s Entertainment put employees through a crash course on where the numerous smoking lounges are located at its four Atlantic City casinos - Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City, the Showboat Casino Hotel, Bally’s Atlantic City and Caesars Atlantic City. It had signs ready to be deployed at midnight when the ban took effect, and prepared marketing brochures to be mailed to customers’ homes explaining the temporary ban, spokeswoman Alyce Parker said.
"The real question is how do we police this?" she said. "We’re asking employees, no matter what type of work they do, when they see someone smoking to please tell them we have a ban in effect, and direct them to the lounges."
Gamblers appeared to be heeding the signs early Wednesday morning in several casinos. No smoking signs were prominently displayed at entrances, as well as atop each bank of slot machines.
The situation varied from casino to casino. A pair of gambling halls, Resorts Atlantic City and the Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort, did not build smoking lounges, thus forcing their customers who smoke to go outside. The Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa had outdoor smoking lounges, while the other eight had indoor lounges.