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Workers speak at hearing to potentially ban smoking inside Atlantic City casinos

Lawmakers had introduced a bill to ban smoking inside New Jersey’s casinos, but no progress has been made on the bill.

Matt Trapani

Mar 10, 2023, 1:18 AM

Updated 500 days ago


Casino workers were back at the New Jersey State House on Thursday to advocate for a smoke-free environment.
Lawmakers had introduced a bill to ban smoking inside New Jersey’s casinos, but no progress has been made on the bill.
Casino workers came to a hearing to talk about their experiences.
“I shouldn’t have to die for this choice. I have to give up my job or realize I’m going to end up dying – a short life if I go back to work,” said dealer Holly Diebler.
Diebler showed lawmakers the scar on her throat where cancerous nodules were recently removed. She says she believes it's a consequence of decades of secondhand smoke inhaled while working at an Atlantic City casino.
“I’m a craps dealer. If you’ve ever played the game of craps, the cigarette is about this far [gestures closer to face] from where I stand,” she said. “I don’t even know how much longer I’m going to be able to live.”
Casinos are the only indoor space in New Jersey that is exempt from the state smoking ban.
“The clock is ticking on people’s lives,” said Pete Naccarelli, of the group Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects. “This bill has the overwhelming support from the constituents of our state, co-sponsorship of roughly 2/3 of our legislators and the pledge of Gov. [Phil] Murphy to sign it when it hits his desk.”
But business groups that represent the casinos have said a ban would send gamblers and business elsewhere.
“This policy does have the potential to have an economic impact on casinos,” says Christina Renna, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Southern New Jersey.
“No one's for cancer. Let's make that clear. But the issue is, do you end up closing a casino?” asked Bob McDevitt.
McDevitt is the longtime head of Unite Here Local 54, the union that represents hospitality workers in Atlantic City. Things got heated amid questioning from Democratic state Assemblyman Ralph Caputo.
“I'm not going to sit here and get browbeat by you. I live it every day. I actually live in Atlantic City. Who else here lives in Atlantic City? Not many,” McDevitt said.
The workers say the arguments being made by casinos are the same ones airlines and bars made when smoking bans were introduced there.
Denying casino workers protection has no basis in science, it has no basis in equity and there is no basis in common sense,” Michelle Larkin, of the RWJ Foundation said.
No date for a vote has been set for the bill.

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