Smoking Back at Atlantic City Casinos: Will It Stay?
Smoking is no longer banned at Atlantic City casinos but there is still an ongoing effort to see the activity banned permanently.
Smoking is basically a given when visiting a casino in the United States. While some venues are starting to set aside specific areas for smoking, for the most part, it is an option you can find in any gambling venue. For many people, smoking is an annoyance, and they would love to see it banned permanently. In Atlantic City, casinos banned smoking for about a year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The activity is now back, but will it last? An effort is still being made to see smoking become a thing of the past in the Boardwalk gambling town.
Governor Murphy Open-Minded to a Ban
During a recent press conference, Governor Phil Murphy stated that he will not intervene with the sunset of the smoking ban, which ended on Sunday. Smoking is back at the nine operating casinos in Atlantic City as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to decline and more people are getting vaccinated.
While the governor said he would not intervene with the ending of the ban, he is open to legislation that would extend the smoking ban or possibly make it permanent. The smoking ban ended at the busiest time for Atlantic City, with July and August busy tourist months.
Casinos do not want to see the ban put in place permanently as they say it would cause a major loss in revenues. They do not feel that any new money made from people who are sensitive to smoking to make up the loss.
Two Bills Introduced
Since last year, two bills have been introduced to try and ban smoking permanently. A senate bill was introduced in February of last year while one in the Assembly came out in August 2020. Republicans and democrats are on board for the legislative push but is it enough to actually see a smoking ban move forward.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney does not seem to be in favor of the effort. He has said in the past that the industry is already struggling, and the argument is that a smoking ban would take away a portion of the industry’s business, causing further harm.
Just a few days ago, employees of the casino industry as well as leaders of the United Auto Workers group took to the Boardwalk to show support for a smoking ban. All other indoor businesses are smoke free, and these employees want to see casinos on the list as well.
Robert Zlotnick, Ph.D, Smoke-Free Atlantic City co-founder, stated that casino employees were out in full force to protest the return of smoking at casinos. The individuals are at risk due to second-hand smoke and must choose a paycheck over their health. Zlotnick called out lawmakers, stating they must act now and stop defending something that is indefensible.
Anti-smoking groups have pointed out that casinos have fared just fine during the pandemic ban. Players still visited and these individuals say they will continue to do so even if a smoking ban is in place, at least that is their belief.
Supporters also say that the potential revenue loss from a smoking ban is not as important as the danger that employees who do not smoke are subjected to by working in a smoking environment.
Nearby Pennsylvania has also ended its smoking ban, with all 14 casinos now offering smoking once again. The decision to remove the ban came just after the mask-mandate came to an end within most indoor businesses.
We shall see in the coming months if any more effort is made in the smoking ban or if the casinos in Atlantic City and other states like Pennsylvania are able to keep on offering the option instead of banking players from lighting up on the gaming floor.