In November, New Jersey’s state legislature may vote to end the indoor smoking in the nine casinos in Atlantic City. The move is due to a longstanding exemption in the state’s Smoke-Free Air Act, which allowed 25 percent of the gaming floor to be used for smoking.
The exemption has sparked controversies for years as some lawmakers attempted to address it. Anti-smoking activists remain dissatisfied, arguing that the current law jeopardizes casino workers’ health.
Senate Bill 264 and Assembly Bill 2151 aim to close this loophole, bringing the casinos in line with properties where indoor smoking is banned. These measures, pending for several months, now have sufficient support to reach New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s desk.
Murphy has previously stated his willingness to sign the measures into law if they reach his desk. Despite the strong support, the Democratic Party remains an obstacle by blocking the measures.
The controversial topic of ending casino smoking, a move opposed by the leading union in Atlantic City and many casino executives, forced Democratic leadership to postpone the matter to the 2024 legislative session.
CEASE (Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects) spearheads the grassroots campaign to ban indoor smoking in Atlantic City. While the delay raises health concerns for casino workers, they welcome the reports of impending legislative action.
“We are encouraged by the news that the Senate plans to hold a vote on bipartisan legislation to end indoor smoking at our workplaces later this year,” a CEASE statement read. “For more than 17 years, we have been the only workers in New Jersey forced to choose between our health and a paycheck. Continuing to compromise our health in any way is unacceptable, and we are gratified that the bill sponsors have said that they will reject any attempts to water this legislation down, period.”
New reports suggest that New Jersey Senate President Nicholas Scutari will take action on Senate Bill 264 after the November 7 elections, potentially bringing the smoking ban out of uncertainty.
Anti-smoking advocates face a challenging task opposing the Democratic majority in the Senate and Assembly, with 25 and 46 seats, respectively.
They must also tackle strong resistance from casino companies that fear revenue loss and possible job cuts of up to 2,500. Unite Here likened the smoking ban to suicide, claiming it could lead to an 11 percent drop in AC casinos’ gross gaming revenue.
On the contrary, ban supporters argue that there is insufficient evidence to support such a significant impact on the local casino industry.
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