Is Marijuana Coming to the Floors of Atlantic City Casinos?

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03/03/2021
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Without any date in sight, the legalization of recreational marijuana is expected to become a thing in New Jersey but the question of how legal it would be still pokes its ugly head.

Would people be allowed to take their stash anywhere and by anywhere, that means the casino floor? Would people be allowed to puff and smoke a joint while they take a shot at a game of blackjack?

For answers to these questions, a lawyer, a lobbyist, and a former legislator have provided some help on educating the public regarding marijuana legislation and what it means for Atlantic City.

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“You still have the issue that it’s still illegal under federal law, that has not changed yet,” said Adam Berger, a partner in the gaming industry group at the Cherry Hill-based law firm of Duane Morris. “So when you’re talking about a regulated industry, you have to consider your license holders, whether they’re complying with all laws in all respects, which includes federal laws which might in some cases contradict the laws of your home state.”

In short: People who enjoy marijuana will probably want to leave their stash in their hotel rooms.

“I think that’s going to be the call,” Berger said.

Former state Senator Ray Lesniak who led the push to legalize sports betting in the Garden State actually agrees with Berger

“Weed? I do not see that happening,” Lesniak said.

Lesniak also doesn’t consider marijuana as the best incentive that will bring people back to the casinos.

“I don’t have statistics to prove what I feel in terms of the number, but it’s not just about the numbers,” Lesniak said. “Atlantic City found out way too late that its future cannot just be about money made on the floor of a casino. And now, it’s moving toward a more diverse economy, and that includes a healthy atmosphere for patrons. Reputation-wise, it won’t be beneficial for the future of Atlantic City casinos overall if we allow … certainly not marijuana smoking, but if we allow cigarette smoking as well. I really don’t think that’s coming back.”

Bill Pascrell III, a lobbyist who has had much experience in both the gaming and marijuana legalization process in the Garden State believes that marijuana might not easily make it to casino floors.

“At this point in time, in the early stages of adult use, I think it is unlikely that we would have retail opportunities in casinos for cannabis,” Pascrell said. “But I do think there are opportunities to create areas within Atlantic City for dedicated cultivation and retail centers that would benefit the casino industry and also benefit the city of Atlantic City.”

Berger also places emphasis on this.

“The interesting thing here is this contradiction in some ways between the regulated casino industry in Atlantic City, which is really geared in a lot of ways to helping the Atlantic City market, and then you have the marijuana market which is also designed in some ways to benefit your more economically deprived areas,” he said. “And so if you really want to help Atlantic City, it would make sense to allow marijuana to be a free-for-all, but because of the necessary federal regulations, it might not work.”

Another big problem is casinos having to handle players abusing weed on their property.

“It is an overlying issue,” Berger said. “Same issue the casinos have with alcohol. They have to be very careful when people are abusing alcohol on their property, because it could lead to problem gambling, and having the casino be viewed as essentially taking advantage of their players.”

This is something Pascrell agrees with

“Yes, the casinos will have to keep in mind the concerns that are always in place for a licensed casino operator with regard to alcohol, let alone cannabis,” he said.

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