A second attempt to pass a bill prohibiting smoking in Atlantic City casinos has failed to garner sufficient votes, despite having numerous legislative sponsors and strong backing from casino workers who cite health concerns related to second-hand smoke exposure on the job.
Although indoor smoking is prohibited in almost all public places in New Jersey, the current law allows smoking on up to 25% of the casino gambling floor, without restricting it to a specific area. The proposed legislation aimed to close this loophole in the state’s anti-smoking law.
A group of people, including those affiliated with C.E.A.S.E. (Casino Employees Against Smoking’s Effects) and UAW (United Auto Workers) members representing casino workers, expressed their dissent by lighting up cigarettes at the New Jersey Senate Health Committee after legislators removed the bill from their agenda. State troopers escorted the protesters out of the State House, CBS News Philadelphia reported.
As per a report by NJ Spotlight News, the bill’s failure coincides with a new poll by Normington, Petts and Associates revealing that nearly 75% of Philadelphia residents and a majority of New Jersey residents would be more inclined to visit Atlantic City if it were entirely smoke-free.
“Over the last month since the election and the latest profitability numbers from the casinos, they have lobbied very effectively and got people worried about potential impacts on revenue and potential job losses. And we lost support in the Legislature…” Sen. Vince Polistina was quoted as saying in the report.
Polistina has announced plans to develop compromise legislation addressing the concerns of both casinos and casino workers. The proposed provisions include eliminating smoking at table games and gradually reducing smoking at slot machines over an 18-month period, with specified minimum distances between slot machines and table games.
A statement from the Casino Association of New Jersey, representing Atlantic City’s casinos, reads:
“It is clear that more and more people realize that the bill, as drafted, will have a significant adverse effect on Atlantic City’s economy. A broad coalition of stakeholders – workers, seniors, people with disabilities, civil rights organizations, labor, business, community leaders, and a number of legislators – oppose this legislation, recognizing that it will hurt working-class people, endanger thousands of jobs and jeopardize the millions of dollars in tax revenue dedicated to New Jersey’s seniors and people with disabilities. We look forward to continuing this dialogue as we move forward, to find a compromise that will address the concerns of our employees without jeopardizing jobs and benefits to some of our most vulnerable citizens. The casino industry will continue to work with stakeholders on a compromise that supports the betterment of the city, the tourism and gaming industries and the collective interest of the entire Atlantic City workforce.”