Gamblers will be able to light up again at Atlantic City casinos starting Sunday
While acknowledging that gamblers would be free to light up again from Sunday, the Democratic governor indicated he would look favorably on a measure lawmakers are considering to permanently end smoking in New Jersey casinos Huh.
“I will be very creative on that,” he said at a coronavirus briefing, stopping short of saying he would sign the law.
The governor’s remarks came two hours after dozens of casino activists and anti-smoking advocates rallied on the Atlantic City boardwalk for a permanent smoking ban.
Casinos are exempt from state law banning most indoor smoking, while Atlantic City law limits smoking to no more than 25% of the casino floor.
New Jersey has also banned smoking on beaches and public parks, which was not lost on many rallying casino workers.
“How is it that you’re not allowed to smoke on our beaches or on our boardwalks, but you’re allowed to smoke at my desk where I can’t turn away?” Asked Nicole Vitola, a table game dealer in Borgata. “I only want the rights that every other worker in New Jersey has.”
Janice Green, a Tropicana dealer, has worked at Atlantic City Casino for 40 years.
“Being in business for so long, I have lung disease,” she said. “I have asthma because of it. It’s under control now, but if you bring back smoking, I’m going back on the inhaler, and I don’t want that.
Murphy ordered Atlantic City casinos to close in March 2020 during the pandemic, and when they reopened 3 1/2 months later, smoking was banned as a public health measure.
“Why is this the only place in New Jersey where you can smoke?” said Alvaro Dante, a casino floor supervisor in the Tropicana. “Bars and restaurants don’t allow that. And casinos aren’t losing money.”
Onjewell Smith of the Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights group said casino workers most at risk from smoking are “mostly Black and Brown women, front-line workers. They are risking their lives every day.”
The Casino Association of New Jersey, a trade group, opposes the permanent smoking ban, saying it could create long-term financial implications.
“Totally non-smoking would put Atlantic City casinos at a competitive disadvantage with other nearby casinos that allow smoking,” the group said in a statement.
Such a ban would lead to fewer customers, fewer casino jobs and less tax revenue, it said.
The casino says that they have spent a considerable amount on cleaning and air filtration systems to protect customers.
And a significant number of gamblers say that smoking is an integral part of their gambling experience.
But smoker Tom Kushan, who visits the casino once or twice a week, has been in love with the smoke-free environment for the past year.
“You can feel the difference,” said Cushion, who lives in Galloway, just outside Atlantic City. “That musty, smoky smell—you don’t have that anymore. It’s time to go smoke-free.”
Follow Wayne Parry at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC.