New Jersey lawmakers are getting closer to potentially imposing a complete smoking ban in Atlantic City casinos. The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee scheduled an important hearing for Thursday, Nov. 30.
If passed, Senate Bill S264 would end an exception for New Jersey casinos’ indoor smoking ban. The current legislation, the Smoke-Free Air Act of 2006, limits smoking to 25% of a casino floor in the resort.
Supporters of the new bill say it would protect casino workers from second-hand smoke. Opponents, on the other hand, fear the ban would hurt casino revenues.
Bill S264 has two sponsors and 24 co-sponsors, while the Assembly version (A2151) has three sponsors and 54 co-sponsors. They await in committee in the Senate and Assembly.
New Jersey lawmakers look to ban indoor casino smoking
Bill S264 and its many earlier versions have been delayed for over 17 years. Although New Jersey lawmakers have repeatedly requested to ban smoking indoors, their efforts have gotten a boost in recent years from casino workers.
The workers’ campaign has effectively built legislative support from 26 senators and 57 members of the Assembly who are now sponsors or co-sponsors of the bill. Still, the legislation did not advance as everyone hoped it would.
Gov. Phil Murphy had previously announced he would sign the bill if it cleared the Legislature, which a spokesperson for his office confirmed. According to an article by The Press Of Atlantic City, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, said during a news conference two weeks ago:
“I know both houses have bills that we have been considering for some time now, and I think it’s time for us to take a look and see what we can get done.”
About a month ago, three NJ senators said they talked to Senate President Nick Scutari, who told lawmakers that a bill banning indoor casino smoking is expected to be posted for a full Senate vote during the lame-duck session. That’s the period when bills often move forward at a rapid pace before the two-year session expires in January.
Casino owners and union leaders fear ban would hurt casino revenues
Casino owners and union leaders worry the industry could suffer significant monetary losses with a ban.
The Unite Here Local 54 hospitality workers’ union and members of the Chamber of Commerce of Southern New Jersey said a ban might encourage some gamblers to go to other casinos in nearby states that allow smoking.
Unite Here Local 54 represents hundreds of casino workers and opposes the current form of a ban. According to the article by The Press Of Atlantic City, Donna DeCaprio, the union’s president, said:
“Unite Here Local 54 continues to fight for a safe working environment for all workers. However, the smoking ban bill, in its current form, would be catastrophic for Atlantic City workers, Atlantic County residents and the State of New Jersey, as a whole.”
DeCaprio said the union believes the ban could lead to the closure of up to three casinos, which could also cause the industry to eliminate about 3,000 workers. “A total smoking ban would be an economic catastrophe for Atlantic County. This is not a theoretical projection,” she said.