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

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The future of a bill aiming to prohibit smoking in Atlantic City's casinos remains uncertain, forcing casino operators to endure weeks of suspense. Discussion about the bill in New Jersey's Senate was halted on Thursday due to insufficient votes for approval by the Senate Health Committee.

Smoking Permeates the NJ Senate

Since the start of the year, the bill has garnered ample support from sponsors to clear the legislature. Interestingly, it managed to dominate the discussions in committee meetings held across both chambers, becoming the sole topic of conversation.

Related: Legislators Consider Ending Smoking Exemption in Atlantic City Casinos

Following the meeting, Senator Joseph Vitale, acting as the committee president, expressed his intention to present the bill during the upcoming duck session. His motive behind proposing this legislation stems from his desire to uphold the rights of employees who refuse to compromise their well-being, as safeguarded by the law.

The hearing saw a lengthy presentation of evidence, surpassing an hour in duration. Speakers included casino operators who expounded on the enduring impacts of smoking on their overall well-being and quality of life.

Vincent Steele, advocate for employees at Tropicana, Bally's and Caesars, expressed strong condemnation towards the fact that smoking is still permitted even 17 years after the state's smoking ban was enacted. Steele emphasized the dire situation faced by these workers, as they continue to desperately fight for their well-being.

Introducing the present proposal, Senator Dick Codey, who served as governor during the implementation of the indoor smoking ban nearly twenty years ago, acknowledges his initial endorsement for a distinct approach. However, he openly confesses his misjudgment and emphasizes that the time has come to rectify this by taking the appropriate course of action.

However, the bill does not go unopposed as dissenters emerge to challenge its implementation. Expressing apprehension over job losses and the potential detrimental effect on the local economy, Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small raises concerns. Furthermore, business entities such as the Southern

New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and the Casino Association of New Jersey voiced their opposition to the bill, adding weight to the growing opposition.

Political Chambers Remain Divided

In February 2022, the bill emerged, gaining extensive support with over 50 sponsors or supporters in the Assembly and at least 25 in the Senate. Surprisingly, the bill's initial sponsors, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Senate President Nick Scutari, refrained from participating in its sponsorship. Nevertheless, they retained complete control over the voting session in their respective chambers.

In the event of committee approval, the bill will require a minimum of 41 votes to successfully pass through the Assembly and 21 votes to proceed accordingly within the Senate prior to reaching the governor's attention. Governor Phil Murphy has explicitly conveyed his intention to sign this bill if it manages to garner support from both chambers.

In early November, the bill was acknowledged for potential lame-duck purposes by both chamber leaders. However, on Thursday, just prior to the committee meeting, Scutari emphasized the requirement to progress further, moving cautiously step by step, as the desired outcome was yet to be achieved. We hold onto hope, aspiring for the bill's success, but it is crucial to recognize that it is still imperative for the bill to advance beyond the committee stage.

A state law enacted in 2006 ensured a smoke-free environment for employees in New Jersey, except at its casinos. Although the bill currently being contemplated was initially presented last year, various versions have been circulating since that law, receiving considerable backing from legislators.

At the peak of the epidemic, a prohibition was implemented for a limited period, yet smoking regained its prevalence once Murphy removed the ban.

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