February 9, 2023
Job Losses from Ending Smoking? AC Casinos Can’t Even Fill Existing Openings
Legislators Should Be Skeptical of Casinos’ Claims at Monday’s First-Ever Hearing on Ending Indoor Smoking at AC Casinos
Atlantic City, NJ — Cynthia Hallett, president and CEO of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, released the following statement after the Press of AC reported this week that “Atlantic City casinos still finding it tough to fill jobs”:
“Casinos’ claims about job losses when legislators close the casino smoking loophole are nothing but hot air — they can’t even fill the job openings they have now. Their sky-is-falling predictions cannot be taken seriously given the reality of the employment situation in Atlantic City. And maybe they wouldn’t have such a hard time finding employees if potential workers knew they wouldn’t have to work in a smoke-filled environment for eight hours a day. We suggest they end indoor smoking and use that as a recruiting tool. Ahead of Monday’s hearing on S264, this is yet another reason for legislators to be skeptical of what casinos’ and their allies say in defense of the indefensible.”
According to the article, “The gaming, hospitality and tourism industries are still struggling to meet employment needs as the region continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. That was the recurring theme of a labor summit hosted Tuesday by the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism School of Business at Stockton University…Another reason casinos are short-staffed is because of the lack of people eligible for casino jobs.”
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. 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/.