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Betting.net / Atlantic City casinos await New Jersey lawmakers’ smoking ban verdict

Atlantic City casinos await New Jersey lawmakers’ smoking ban verdict

Publish Date: November 26, 2023
Fact checked by: Jesse M Cox
w, tags: atlantic city smoking ban - images.unsplash.com

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State lawmakers move closer to a total smoking ban in Atlantic City casinos as an essential hearing for bill S264 approaches next week.

The proposed legislation seeks to eliminate exemptions for designated smoking areas in the “New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act.” The act is a 2006 law that banned indoor smoking in nearly all public places.

The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee will conduct a crucial hearing in Trenton on Thursday, November 30, for the proposed smoking ban in Atlantic City casinos. Enjoying significant bipartisan support, the Senate bill has 26 sponsors, while the Assembly version has 57.

Proponents assert that the measure aims to shield casino workers from secondhand smoke hazards. However, critics argue that the ban could adversely impact casino revenues, as it has become the economic lifeline of the Atlantic City region.

S264 bill gains momentum

Despite previous stalls in Trenton, the bill has gained momentum during the current lame-duck session following November’s elections. The legislature, facing a session expiration in January, often sees rapid advancement of bills during this period.

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin seemingly endorsed the bill at a recent news conference. Coughlin mentioned that his members would “take a look and see what we can get done,” according to press reports.

Smoking is currently allowed on approximately 20 percent of an Atlantic City casino floor. Although a temporary ban was enacted during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, smoking resumed when Governor Phil Murphy lifted the restriction.

During a March Assembly hearing, both supporters and opponents testified on the bill. Members of CEASE (Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects) argued against exposing workers to secondhand smoke. CEASE members cited health risks such as heart disease, lung cancer and respiratory illnesses, as reported by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Meanwhile, the Chamber of Commerce of Southern New Jersey and the hospitality workers’ union, Unite Here Local 54, expressed a different concern. A smoking ban could drive some gamblers to casinos in neighboring states that permit smoking.

If the casino smoking ban is approved, New Jersey residents would only be allowed to smoke in limited public places. These specific spaces include cigar lounges or tobacco shops, golf courses, designated beach areas and research laboratories studying smoking effects.

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