For years, anti-smoking activists and employees of New Jersey casinos have been trying to see a legal change regarding smoking. Every effort has failed to move forward as legislators are unwilling to pass a law, possibly due to the pushback by Atlantic City operators. This week, we have learned that the New Jersey Senate will be voting on a smoking ban in November, thanks to legislation provided by Senate President Nick Scutari.
New Jersey Senate to Vote on Atlantic City Casino Smoking Ban
- S264 has support from 26 of 40 senators.
- Governor Phil Murphy says he will sign the bill if it passes.
- The General Assembly must approve and pass a companion bill.
S264 Will Be Voted On
Senate President Nick Scutari will bring S264 to a full vote in the Senate later this year. News reports say the vote will occur after the General Election this November. This measure has gained support in the Senate with 26 of the 40 members on board. It is expected that the bill will be approved in the Upper Chamber.
However, even if the Senate can approve the measure, the General Assembly must vote and pass a companion bill. If this occurs, the measure will move on to Governor Phil Murphy's desk. For years, the governor has said that he will sign it into law if such legislation makes it to his desk.
It is unclear if the General Assembly will be considering such a measure. Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin has not commented publicly on the matter. Currently, 80 members in the Assembly, and 57 are either sponsors or co-sponsors of a companion bill focused on a smoking ban.
Those For and Against Smoking
There is a mix of those who are for a smoking ban and those who are against it. Each lawmaker representing Atlantic City at the capital favors a prohibition within the nine Atlantic City casinos. The Atlantic City City Council has provided additional support as they passed a resolution to support a ban.
The United Auto Workers union also approves a ban, representing almost 1,200 casino card game dealers. The employees are tired of dealing with cigarette smoke while on the job. Assemblyman Don Guardian has lobbied hard for the change, stating that he doesn’t want to take away the right of an individual to kill themselves by smoking, but he does want to take away the ability of the smoke to kill someone else.
Those opposed to the smoking ban include the Casino Association of New Jersey, the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Marty Small Sr., and the Chamber of Commerce of Southern New Jersey.
Casinos Don’t Want to Lose Gamblers
The common argument by casinos on the topic is that they fear a smoking ban will cause them to lose customers. The Smoke-Free Air Act was introduced in 2006, and it bans smoking in public places, except for Atlantic City casinos. Up to 25% of the gaming floors in the casinos can offer smoking.
Casino operators feel that a ban will put them at a disadvantage in other states. Operators have said they could lose from 20% to 25% in casino revenues from in-person gamblers due to a ban.
The counterargument is this. Other casinos across the United States do not include smoking; they earn more than NJ casinos. Take MGM National Harbor, for example. The facility outperforms several AC casinos and does not offer smoking on-site. Neighboring New York also does not allow smoking in its casinos.
Proponents of the ban also point out that smoking was banned during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the spread of the disease, and casinos did just fine. If players are willing to visit during a pandemic and not be able to smoke, they would still visit if smoking, in general, was not an option.
It will be interesting to see what happens with the ban in the future and if this most recent bill can move forward and be passed into law.
Having started in 2005 as an online writer, Sadonna has focused on the online gambling industry, with a keen knowledge of various subjects. Sadonna has followed the growing US-based gambling industry for decades, covering all the legal changes in the nation as well as information on land-based and online casinos. She enjoys updating fellow gamblers on new games, casino bonuses, and additional information for premium gaming services. In her spare time, Sadonna loves spending time with her family and singing on Smule. Sadonna hopes to continue working in the online gambling industry and building quality articles for players to learn more about the US market.