The ongoing battle over the future of smoking in Atlantic City’s casinos continues with a major victory for the proponents of the controversial smoking ban. However, the war is yet to be won.
The latest development saw an anti-casino smoking measure move forward after three years of intense discussions between pro-smoking and anti-smoking activists. The bill was now approved by the New Jersey Senate health committee, sparking hopes among the latter camp.
Following the advancement of the anti-casino smoking bill, a confrontation between the two camps erupted. People screamed at one another as anti-smoking activists rejoiced.
For reference, Atlantic City’s nine casinos can currently turn up to 25% of their gaming area into a smoking area. However, this means that employees responsible for that area must breathe cigarette smoke all shift long, exposing them to a variety of health problems.
Casino operators fear introducing a smoking ban as it may impact their business. Some believe that patrons who go outside to have a smoke may decide to call it a day. Others fear that fervent smokers will simply go to play in Philadelphia.
Because of that, operators have long been seeking a compromise, such as smoking rooms. However, this would still require employees to man said rooms.
In any case, the bill will now go to the Senate for a vote. In order for the measure to pass, an identical bill must also be approved by an Assembly committee and voted upon by the full chamber. Finally, it would be up to Governor Phil Murphy to sign the measure into law.
The Industry Says the Ban Would Be an “Economic Catastrophe”
Casino industry supporters conceded that smoking is harmful but warned that a smoking ban may, at the very least, lead to layoffs. Donna DeCaprio, president of the Local 54 of the Unite Here union, a group representing hospitality staff, warned that as many as 3,000 of the 50,000 casino jobs in the city could disappear.
DeCaprio also predicts the potential closure of three of Atlantic City’s casinos, saying that a total ban on smoking is going to result in an “economic catastrophe.”
However, Cynthia Hallett, president and CEO of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, pointed out that, according to polls, more people would be inclined to visit the city’s casinos. In addition, previous surveys have found no proof that a ban on smoking would hurt casino operators’ business.
Senator Shirley Turner, on the other hand, was firm that Americans shouldn’t be forced to choose between their job or their health.