Stalled Smoking Ban Proposal Spurs Casino Worker Protests in New Jersey

  • Casino workers believe that lawmakers are prioritizing casino tax breaks over a smoking ban
  • NJ has a ban on indoor smoking in public places, except in casinos and simulcasting facilities
  • Casinos believe that a smoking ban would hurt revenue
  • Workers believe that they are suffering from the effects of second-hand smoke inhalation
  • New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy is in favor of a smoking ban in casinos
Hand holding a cigarette
New Jersey casino workers have been protesting the lack of attention that lawmakers have given to a bill that would ban smoking in casinos. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Not a priority for lawmakers

Casino workers in New Jersey have expressed their anger that state lawmakers are seemingly ignoring a proposal to introduce a smoking ban into casinos. They believe that the state legislature is placing more of a priority on legislation that will give tax breaks to casinos rather than the separate measure of implementing a smoking ban. It appears that a vote on the tax breaks could take place as early as next week.

The bill that proposes the smoking ban in New Jersey casinos was introduced in February 2020. There is no vote on the schedule for the bill; no preliminary hearing has even taken place in a committee since its introduction. A temporary smoking ban was put into place in casinos following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it was lifted in July 2021.

smoking is not permitted indoors in New Jersey, except for in casinos and simulcasting facilities

About two dozen casino workers gathered outside the state capitol in Trenton on Thursday in order to protest the smoking ban bill delays. They want lawmakers to finally take action to help protect the health of casino employees. Currently, smoking is not permitted indoors in New Jersey, except for in casinos and simulcasting facilities. Smoking is allowed on 20% of a casino floor; those who work at these properties claim that they are suffering due to the inhalation of second-hand smoke.

The impact of smoking on workers

The casino sector has rallied against the introduction of a smoking ban as it believes that such a measure could hurt revenue, but casino workers claim that the casinos in Atlantic City performed better while the temporary smoking ban was in place.

A couple of the protestors outlined health issues to which they believe secondhand smoke has been a contributing factor. Angela Martinelli, a dealer at the Borgata, told the Associated Press that she has developed emphysema after working at casinos. Lamont White, another dealer who has worked in casinos for 36 years, asked: “Why doesn’t the state of New Jersey care about us?”

casino workers in New Jersey currently have to choose between a paycheck and their health

In a news release, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights and the Casino Employees Against Smoking’s (Harmful) Effects (CEASE) said that casino workers in New Jersey currently have to choose between a paycheck and their health. CEASE formed following the reintroduction of smoking at gaming facilities on July 4.

Appetite for change

New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney noted last month that there have yet to be serious talks regarding the smoking ban proposal. He stated that “deep dialogue” would be necessary regarding this matter. Sweeney repeated the concerns of the casino sector that business could be hurt by a ban, saying “some people tell you you lose 16% of your business” if a smoking ban comes into effect.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has already come out in support of a smoking ban, stating that he would sign a measure into law once lawmakers give it the green light. To date, 29 states across the country have introduced a ban on smoking in indoor public places. Of these 29 states, 11 of them have given special status to casinos.