Members of Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects (CEASE) and United Auto Workers (UAW) representing table game dealers met with New Jersey Senator Vince Polistina on January 17th this year. They went to his office in Egg Harbor Township because they believed he was flip-flipping in his support of a smoking ban.
The bill to ban smoking in New Jersey casinos was postponed again in November 2023. Casino workers were infuriated by this delay. Democratic lawmakers didn’t have enough votes to advance the bill. It was proposed that casinos be given an opportunity to develop compromises.
Casino workers go to Senator Polistina’s office
CEASE members wanted the senator to explain why casinos were given this opportunity. An early idea proposed by casinos was the use of fully enclosed smoking rooms. Only workers willing to work in the enclosed environments would deal cards.
When playing at an NJ online casino, gamblers don’t have to inhale second-hand smoke, but this isn’t the case in a number of land-based casinos. It is worse for casino workers who are in this smoke-filled environment for hours at a time.
Casino workers were unhappy about giving casinos a chance to come up with compromises. They disagree that smoking bans compromise casino revenue. The fact that Parx Casino is smoke-free and was one of the top-grossing casinos in 2023 supports their view.
They also felt they would be pressured to work in enclosed smoking rooms. They told the Senator about casinos where a worker with cancer and a pregnant woman were forced to work at smoking tables.
Senator defends his position
Senator Polistina was initially one of the strongest supporters of smokers going outside casinos to light up. He said that it was politics that caused him to change his position. Lost seats for democrats during the recent election meant that there was a slim chance that a full smoking ban would be implemented. He supports giving casinos a chance to come up with solutions that will elevate the casino experience for players and casino workers.
Politics and the Local 54 to blame
The concerns of casinos about potential job losses and closures have resonated with lawmakers. The Local 54 Union is also to blame. It represents many more workers in Atlantic City, but they work mainly in resort operations. It sides with casinos in believing a smoking ban would force smokers to go to casinos in Philadelphia. State law there permits smoking on up to half of gaming floors.
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Casinos want an 18-month transition period
The tobacco product market worldwide is projected to generate revenue of just over US$965 billion in 2024. Casinos believe that job losses are inevitable with a smoking ban, and they want to avoid this. Smoking is currently permitted in New Jersey casinos on 25% of casino floors.
The casino industry wants 18 months to set up enclosed smoking rooms and install additional air treatment processes.