I strongly support NJ Casino workers who are fighting for legislation to ban indoor smoking in the gambling halls of Atlantic City’s casinos. The science is clear, tobacco smoke presents dire health risks for those who choose to smoke – and, unfortunately, also to those subjected to second-hand smoke.  Seems to me that smoke-free gaming will be the safest bet – everyone wins.

In 2006, New Jersey banned indoor smoking in all public places — except casinos — where the Casino Owners Association of NJ lobbied successfully for exemption citing concerns over potential losses of revenue. Atlantic City casino workers have suffered the consequences of that exemption ever since and remain significantly more exposed to toxic second-hand smoke compared to all other segments of the U.S. workforce according to data published by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Casino workers’ duties force them to work in close proximity to cigarette-smoking gamblers and we know second-hand smoke elevates risks for heart disease and lung cancer. It’s outrageous for this to continue as business as usual.

Following pandemic-related shutdowns, the casinos in Atlantic City were required to remain smoke-free for a full year following their reopening to public gaming operations in July 2020. The result of this mandated experiment in public safety is proof that casino profits and a healthy work-environment for dealers and other casino workers can coexist. CEASE has been advocating to eliminate the smokingban exemption for NJ casinos and simulcasting facilities. Their bill (S-264) has not yet had a hearing in the State Legislature, although it continues to gather support from lawmakers of both parties across the NJ Senate and Assembly and a commitment by Governor Phil Murphy to sign the ban if it’s passed.

Predictably, as was the case in 2006, the Casino Association of New Jersey warns of widespread revenue and job losses if smoking were banned in the casinos. CEASE and a growing number of State legislators expect improvements in business conditions in the years after a smoking ban is enacted, as gamblers become used to a smoke-free environment. These are the same arguments used by restaurants and taverns prior to the 2006 ban. Today it’s impossible to imagine enjoying a meal in a smoke-filled room. Businesses innovate and attract or retain patrons through the quality of their services.

I proudly join CEASE in urging all New Jersey residents to contact their respective state senators and assemblyman to demand that they advance S-264 to legislatively protect the health and well-being of Atlantic City’s casino workers and ensure they enjoy the same rights as all other employees in the state of NJ.