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Efforts To Ban Casino Smoking Falls Short In New Jersey

Pennsylvania Bill Still Under Consideration


Some legislators in New Jersey and Pennsylvania hope to make smoky casinos a thing of the past. Those efforts failed this week in the Garden State when backers couldn’t secure enough votes, but Pennsylvania legislators continue to move forward.

Smoking has long been associated with casinos, but some casino workers and other health advocates in recent years have worked to curb the activity. Backers of butting out weren’t pleased with the rejection of an anti-smoking plan in New Jersey.

“It’s incredible that we’re here begging again to have the same thing everyone else has,” Lamont White, a dealer at the Borgata and a leader of the anti-smoking effort in Atlantic City, told the Associated Press.

New Jersey Legislators Seeking Compromise

In New Jersey, the proposal came to a stop this week in committee after lawmakers couldn’t garner enough votes for it to advance. Legislators have now said they would be willing to work with casinos in finding a plan that could serve as a compromise.

New Jersey has a law in place that bars smoking in public businesses, but that exempts the state’s casinos. Current law allows smoking on 25% of the casino floor. Some in the industry have recommended an 18-month smoking ban phase-in to allow properties to construct enclosed smoking rooms and add air treatment systems.

“There could be a compromise put on the table that could bring the votes … that will ensure it passes,” Sen. Fred Madden (D) said. He added that he believed that some casino workers would lose their jobs if a complete smoking ban were put in place.

The smoke-free idea was tried in 2012 with the opening of the Revel Resort in Atlantic City, which initially had a smoking ban but was met with numerous problems before declaring two bankruptcies and closing in 2014. The property was reopened as Ocean Resort Casino in 2018, with smoking permitted.

Pennsylvania Efforts Continue

Efforts at a casino smoking ban continue in the Keystone State, however. Legislation recently passed out of the state house health committee.

The proposal would ban smoking, including e-cigarettes, in casinos and bars. Rep. Dan Frankel, (D) is sponsoring the bill and believes the move is the right step to protect the state’s casino workers from inhaling second-hand smoke.

“We should never be forcing people, especially workers, and people in these establishments to have to choose between their health and a good paying job with benefits,” Frankel told WTAE.

Some business interests argue that a ban would hurt small business owners who own bars. Casinos also argue that they already offer non-smoking sections.

“Currently, Rivers Casino Pittsburgh features designated smoking and nonsmoking areas of our gaming floor,” Rivers Casino Pittsburgh representative Jack Horner told WTAE. “All restaurants, BetRivers Sportsbook, Poker Room, The Event Center, banquet rooms and The Landing Hotel are nonsmoking. Decisions about smoking in Pennsylvania’s casinos are made by the State Legislature, and Rivers will, of course, comply with whatever the Commonwealth mandates.”