Atlantic City Casino Smoking Bill Paused Day Of Planned Vote

A bill that would ban smoking in Atlantic City casinos stalled once again on Thursday. [Image:]

Atlantic City smoking debate rages on Thursday was supposed to be the day a bill to end smoking in Atlantic City casinos received its first round of votes in the state Congress.

didn’t have enough internal support

Instead, the vote, which was going to happen in front of many casino workers and anti-smoking lobbyists, was delayed because Democratic lawmakers revealed they didn’t have enough internal support to advance the proposal.

This is yet another turn in a saga that has been going on for years. The Democrats said they would be willing to listen to alternatives proposed by the casino industry in the meantime until a vote can be taken for the current bill.

A rug pull Current New Jersey law prohibits smoking in public businesses everywhere except for Atlantic City, where smoking can be allowed on 25% of a casino floor.

The popular tourist destination reported over $4bn in yearly revenue at the end of October and is on pace to eclipse $5bn by the end of the year. That comes in spite of the controversial lack of smoking prohibitions inside gambling floors, a standard many other casinos nationwide have in place.

“It’s incredible that we’re here begging again to have the same thing everyone else has,” said Lamont White, a dealer at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.

“We have to endure hours on the job with secondhand smoke in our faces without the ability to turn away,” said Nicole Vitola, who also works as a dealer at the Borgata.

more than half of state lawmakers co-sponsoring the bill

The bill is currently stuck in the Senate Health Committee. Committee Chairman Joe Vitale, a Democrat from Middlesex, said he was one vote short of advancing the bill to the Senate. That’s despite more than half of state lawmakers co-sponsoring the bill.

Sen. Fred Madden (D-Gloucester) reneged on his support for the bill hours before the vote was scheduled. He said that he was open to alternatives proposed by the casinos. but would not support the current plan.

Vitale still believes the vote will pass before the January 9 cut-off. If it doesn’t, Senators will have to restart the process when the next legislative session begins.

Plans for a resolution Although there is optimism for an agreement in the future, those in attendance were not pleased to find out the vote had been stalled.

“Enough is enough,” said Patrick Ashton, a representative for the United Auto Workers, a union representing casino dealers. “If we can’t get this bill passed in the Senate health committee—a smoking bill? … We’re still here begging for our lives? It’s a disgrace.”

Opponents of the current bill are holding out for amendments that will allow for separate, enclosed smoking rooms. They are also looking for improved ventilation systems inside casinos.

no-smoking rules would affect the economic momentum

Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small does not support the bill in its current form. He declared empathy for both sides, but expressed concern that no-smoking rules would affect the economic momentum the casinos built in recent years.

The issue of saving revenues is also complicated since last year the city lost half of its $5.2bn in revenue to online tech and sportsbook partners.

“If there’s some sort of compromise where it’s a win-win and everyone can come together and we can maintain the integrity of jobs, I’m all for that,” said Small.

The United Auto Workers called the smoking rooms idea “absurd” and called on legislators to shoot down the idea if it is formally presented.

C3 Gaming, a casino consulting company, said that casinos that banned smoking have been economically fruitful. It named examples in nearby Washington, D.C., Boston, Massachusetts, and Maryland.