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New Jersey Lawmakers Under Fire Over Casino Smoking Ban

Penny December 20, 2023

Atlantic City workers have expressed their concerns over the local government’s stance on a comprehensive smoking ban for casino properties. As some parties have consistently lobbied the state senate to extend the indoor smoking ban to casino floors for the past two years, it is little surprise that the legislature dropping a proposed smoking ban bill has sparked a loud and passionate response. Workers have shared their stories and health fears in an effort to put legislators under pressure and force the issue in a significant way. And some have even taken to protesting the decision by staging demonstrations that have taken the fight to those they see as being responsible for the stalling of the bill.

smokingban casino

Smoke-In Held to Protest Ban U-Turn

As part of the attempt to put pressure on lawmakers, a group of casino workers took themselves to the New Jersey Senate Health Committee meeting and lit up their cigarettes. Ultimately, this led to state troopers removing the protesters from the House but it certainly made the point that workers feel like their rights haven’t been considered when reviewing the proposal. Speaking to CBS News, a member of the protest said that the workers had been “betrayed by our legislators, both Democrat and Republican”. This was after representatives of the city’s casinos expressed that a full smoking bill would hurt their bottom lines and see a plummet in revenue. Because of this, it’s clear to see why those working the tables see the government’s decision to drop the bill as appeasing business owners rather than the low-paid employees who are subject to cigarette smoke daily.


Currently, in New Jersey, smoking is illegal in nearly all public indoor environments. However, according to a report in the Associated Press, casinos are somewhat exempt from this ban. As it stands, 25% of casinos floors can be designated for smokers. This is where the upset stems from; for the workers dealing cards and working the tables in the Garden State’s casinos. Most are wondering what makes their workplace any different to the other public spaces in the state in which smoking is banned. In some other countries, including European nations like the UK and Ireland, the smoking bans that were introduced in the early-to-mid 2000s covered all establishments and even often extended to the outside of these properties. So, while the casino owners will use their profits and the potential for job losses as their reasoning for opposing the bill, there is evidence that other countries have been able to implement full bans successfully.


Is In-Person Casino Revenue Even a Big Deal for New Jersey?

The owners of the state’s physical establishments will continue to claim the potential harm that a smoking ban would have on their business. However, is this really reflective of the truth? In fact, throughout 2023, reports emerged that in-person gambling was continuing to decline despite gaming revenues across the board remaining almost level. NJ Spotlight News reported that despite a year-on-year improvement of 9% for May revenues across the entire gaming industry, in-person gaming experienced a 2.5% drop. That would suggest that smoking in casinos isn’t exactly the safe bet that owners seem to think that it is. Instead, it could also be driving non-smokers to choose remote gambling over being subjected to smokey air in one of the state’s casinos. Good market research could help build a more welcoming environment for workers and gamblers alike if time is given to it. With that said, though, it seems as if gaming behaviors are changing in New Jersey.


November was a record year for iGaming and sports betting in the state. Its casinos set a record of more than $1.5 billion in sports betting revenue. This indicates that the classic casino may be naturally declining as a younger market enters the fray. If the local industry isn’t willing to change in the face of health concerns and dwindling revenue for their physical gaming, it could be a difficult time for these operators. Instead of being so reluctant to change their approach to gaming and worker safety, it could benefit those in charge to look at an evolving industry and get ahead of the game by listening to its most important members. As it is, it doesn’t seem that the concerned staff of these casinos will stop taking this issue seriously and will continue to push lawmakers and company bosses to enforce a complete smoking ban.

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