February 1, 2023
ANR Says First-Ever Hearing on AC Smoking Bill a Critical Step to Protecting Worker Health
Casino Dealers’ Voices Must Carry the Most Weight
Trenton Press Conference Scheduled for Tomorrow Has Been Canceled
Atlantic City, NJ – Cynthia Hallett, president and CEO of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights (ANR), released the following statement in response to the announcement of a February 13 Senate hearing on legislation to close the casino smoking loophole in New Jersey:
“This hearing means that Atlantic City casino workers are one step closer to not having to choose between their health and a paycheck. It’s a historic moment in the fight to protect the health of thousands of New Jersey workers. They have waited nearly 17 years for this day. Dealers bear the brunt of the dangerous secondhand smoke more harshly than anyone else working in casinos, and their voices must carry the most weight. We are deeply appreciative of the leadership of Senator Joe Vitale, as well as lead sponsor Senator Shirley Turner, which will help this bill become law.”
New Jersey’s Smoke-Free Air Act took effect on April 15, 2006 – but included an exemption for casinos. Legislation to eliminate the casino smoking loophole has earned more cosponsors than most other bills this legislative session in Trenton. It has been over 550 days since smoking returned to Atlantic City casinos and legislation to end indoor smoking is being cosponsored by 51 state assembly members and 23 state senators – a bipartisan majority in both chambers. S264 and A2151 are identical bills that “[e]liminates [the] smoking ban exemption for casinos and simulcasting facilities.”
Governor Phil Murphy has repeatedly affirmed that he’d sign the legislation, most recently saying, “At the end of the day, we will still get good business. Atlantic City is an American gem. We’ve got the ocean and the other competitors don’t. And this is the right thing for our respective health.”
The United Auto Workers (UAW), the union representing Atlantic City casino dealers, is urging legislative leaders to advance bills to close the smoking loophole. UFCW Local 152, which represents 16,000 retail, manufacturing, and healthcare workers in South Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, and Delaware, also supports eliminating the casino smoking loophole.
Atlantic City posted 2022 revenue figures that match the all-time high for the market. Even in-person gaming revenue “surpassed pre-pandemic levels of 2019 — a long-sought goal of the Atlantic City casino industry,” as the Associated Press reported last month.
Last September, the East Coast Gaming Conference (ECGC) canceled a panel discussion on indoor smoking after the head of the Casino Association of New Jersey (CANJ) abruptly backed out, prompting casino workers to bring the discussion to the doors of the convention.
A report by Las Vegas-based C3 Gaming found that casinos without indoor smoking outperform their smoking counterparts. “Data from multiple jurisdictions clearly indicates that banning smoking no longer causes a dramatic drop in gaming revenue. In fact, non-smoking properties appear to be performing better than their counterparts that continue to allow smoking.”
Ventilation systems are not the answer, according to the engineers who design such systems and collectively make up the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). “[Ventilation systems] are not effective against secondhand smoke” and “can reduce only odor and discomfort, but cannot eliminate exposure,” they wrote to casino executives. “There is no currently available or reasonably anticipated ventilation or air-cleaning system that can adequately control or significantly reduce the health risks of [environmental tobacco smoke] to an acceptable level.”
More and more casinos nationwide are going smokefree, including Park MGM on the Las Vegas Strip. At least 160 sovereign Tribal gaming venues have implemented 100% smokefree policies during COVID-19, 23 states require commercial casinos to be smokefree indoors, and more than 1,000 gaming properties do not permit smoking indoors.
ABOUT AMERICANS FOR NONSMOKERS’ RIGHTS
Americans for Nonsmoker’s Rights (ANR) is a member-supported, non-profit advocacy group that has been working for 45 years, since 1976, to protect everyone’s right to breathe nontoxic air in workplaces and public places, from offices and airplanes to restaurants, bars, and casinos. ANR has continuously shined a light on the tobacco industry’s interference with sound and life-saving public health measures and successfully protected 61% of the population with local or statewide smokefree workplace, restaurant, and bar laws. ANR aims to close gaps in smokefree protections for workers in all workplaces, including bars, music venues, casinos, and hotels. For more information, please visit https://no-smoke.org/ and https://smokefreecasinos.org/.