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Atlantic City Casino Smoking Ban Discussion Back on the Table

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An effort to rid Atlantic City casinos of cigarette smoke is back on the table. The long-running attempt to eliminate an exemption to New Jersey's indoor smoking ban that benefited gambling properties is getting new life in the new year.

Ceasing the Smoke

The debate over smoking in Atlantic City casinos has intensified as workers seek to secure a smoke-free workplace for themselves. New Jersey's Smoke-Free Air Act currently exempts casinos from the indoor smoking ban, allowing them to designate a quarter of their gaming space as a smoking area. However, casino workers argue that this exemption exposes them to harmful secondhand smoke, jeopardizing their health.

CEASE (Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects), a prominent advocate for a smoking ban, highlighted the detrimental effects of secondhand smoke on its members. The organization cited cases of workers developing lung cancer, heart diseases, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, urging casino operators to prioritize workers' well-being over profits.

Related: Vote on Atlantic City Casino Smoking Ban Postponed Following Lack of Support

Atlantic City casinos, on the other hand, maintain that a smoking ban could negatively impact their business. They argue that patrons who step outside for a smoke may decide to leave for the day, potentially reducing revenue.

However, proponents of the smoking ban counterargue that this could also lead to lower problem gambling rates. Additionally, they point out that there is no substantial evidence to support the claim that a smoking ban would significantly affect casinos' earnings.

A study by C3 Gaming, a Las Vegas-based consulting firm, in 2022 supported that assertion. The study, which analyzed data from casinos in multiple jurisdictions, found that non-smoking casinos are not only performing well but are even outperforming their smoking counterparts.

The study examined the performance of casinos in various states since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020. The findings revealed that casinos that implemented smoking bans did not experience any revenue decline or loss of market share compared to nearby casinos that continued to allow smoking.

In addition to the positive financial impact, casino executives from tribal casinos reported that profitability was increasing due to lower maintenance costs associated with smoking bans. Notably, 157 tribes were able to eliminate smoking from their casinos without any negative economic repercussions.

Smoking Ban Bill Begins Making Its 2024 Rounds

Opponents of the smoking ban have also raised concerns that smokers might flock to Philadelphia's casinos instead. However, CEASE challenges this notion, asserting that many gamblers would be more inclined to visit Atlantic City if indoor smoking was banned.

In response to the ongoing debate, Senator Joe Vitale reintroduced a bill aimed at addressing the existing loophole in New Jersey's Smoke-Free Air Act. Senate Bill 1493 currently has the support of 18 out of 40 state senators. CEASE expressed disappointment with the dwindling support, rejecting alternative measures such as ventilation systems and designated smoking areas within casinos.

The battle over smoking in Atlantic City casinos remains a contentious issue, with both workers and casino operators advocating for their respective interests. While casino operators prioritize revenue, workers prioritize their health and well-being. The outcome of Senator Vitale's bill will be closely watched as it could significantly impact the future of smoking in Atlantic City casinos.

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