Atlantic City workers call on lawmakers to ban smoking inside casinos
Atlantic City casino workers rallied in Trenton on Thursday to call on lawmakers to ban smoking inside casinos.
It is illegal to smoke inside a restaurant or bar, but it is still allowed inside casinos. The workers say that secondhand smoke is damaging to their health.
“Every day we’re in a smoke-filled environment, we’re suffering,” says casino worker Lamont White.
“We’re the only group of people in the state that still have to deal with this,” says card dealer Nicole Vitola.
The workers are asking the state Legislature to advance a bipartisan bill that would ban smoking on the floor of casinos.
“This is a very important issue. We need to make sure we are giving people a healthy work environment and clean air,” says state Sen. Vince Polistina. “There’s no reason to have this exemption still exist.”
The 2006 law banning indoor smoking in New Jersey left a loophole just for Atlantic City’s casinos. Smoking was banned for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order banning smoking expired in July.
“I’m front lines on that game with the smoker right there,” says Vitola.
She says that it is an issue of mutual respect and self-respect.
“You feel bad about yourself and you feel bad about the way the state is treating you,” Vitola says. “The smoke smell is disgusting. I’m not even worried about the smell. I’m worried about what it’s doing inside of my body and what it’s doing inside all of us.”
“Obviously we know that second-hand smoke causes cancer and the fact that they will no longer have to deal with that and they’ll have clean air is going to benefit their health long-term,” says Polistina.
Many casino workers contrasted the progress of the stalled smoking ban bill against another piece of legislation that would reduce the amount of money casinos pay towards taxes. That bill is speeding its way through legislative committees.
“I think the time has come. Nine other states have smoke-free casinos. We should too,” the senator says.
“There are no young casino workers like when I started,” says White. “They don’t want to get into an industry where they have to deal with this hazard.”
If the smoking ban bill doesn’t pass before Jan. 11, it will expire and have to be reintroduced during the next legislative session.