The Ongoing New Jersey Casino Smoking Ban Still Running

The casinos in Atlantic City have benefited from a special privilege for over 20 years: they are free from the state-wide smoking law in New Jersey, which forbids smoking in public places. Up to 25% of a casino’s gaming floor may now have indoor smoking due to the New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act. This exception has generated controversy, particularly when interim prohibitions were imposed during the epidemic.

Senate Bill 264 (SB 264) is gaining traction, which means that the casinos in Atlantic City are about to face a turning point. Shirley Turner and Joseph Vitale are the main sponsors of this proposal, which aims to end the casinos’ and simulcasting establishments’ exemption from the smoking law. The Senate Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee recently heard testimony on the measure, which has bipartisan support and is igniting discussions about the possible ramifications of closing this legislative gap.

Quoting Shirley Turner, one of the primary sponsors of the bill, “It’s time we prioritize the health and well-being of both casino employees and patrons over outdated exemptions.”

Activist organizations that oppose smoking at casinos, such as Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects (CEASE), fervently support SB 264. They contend that casino owners could be forced to reduce staffing levels if a smoking prohibition results in large revenue losses. A smoking ban may cut gross gaming income by 11%, according to a prior claim made by Unite Here, a strong advocate for the initiative.

Not everyone is persuaded, though. In response, several industry insiders argue that the pandemic’s temporary smoking ban had no appreciable effects on the business. The health and safety of both staff and guests should come first, according to bill backers, despite persistent concerns about potential income losses.

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The outcome of SB 264’s parliamentary journey will determine whether or not Atlantic City’s smoking exemption remains intact. This parliamentary session will end in January, so the next several months will be critical. Will the casinos in Atlantic City be allowed to keep smoking as they have for so long, or will health concerns win out?

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