The Atlantic City casino smoking bill has disrupted the day of its scheduled vote

Hand holds burning cigarette

A bill that would ban smoking in Atlantic City casinos stalled again Thursday. [Image:]

The smoking debate in Atlantic City continues

Thursday was supposed to be the day a bill to eliminate smoking in Atlantic City casinos received its first round of votes in the state Congress.

did not have enough internal support

Instead, the vote, scheduled to take place in front of crowds of casino employees and anti-smoking lobbyists, was delayed because Democratic lawmakers revealed they did not have enough internal support to advance the proposal.

This is another twist in a saga that has been going on for years. Democrats said they are willing to listen to alternatives proposed by the casino industry in the meantime until the current bill can be voted on.

A carpet pull

Current New Jersey law prohibits smoking in public businesses everywhere except Atlantic City, where smoking is permitted on 25% of the casino floor.

The popular tourist destination reported annual sales of over $4 billion at the end of October and is on track to surpass $5 billion by the end of the year. This comes despite the controversial lack of smoking bans in gaming halls, a standard that many other casinos across the country have adopted.

“It’s unbelievable that here we are again begging to have the same thing that everyone else has,” said Lamont White, a dealer at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.

“We have to endure hours at work with secondhand smoke in our faces without being able to turn away,” said Nicole Vitola, who also works as a trader at Borgata.

More than half of state lawmakers support the bill

The bill is currently stuck in the Senate Health Committee. Committee Chairman Joe Vitale, a Democrat from Middlesex, said he was one vote short of moving the bill to the Senate floor. This is despite the fact that more than half of state legislators co-sponsored the bill.

Sen. Fred Madden (D-Gloucester) withdrew his support for the bill hours before it was scheduled to vote. He said he was open to alternatives suggested by the casinos. but would not support the current plan.

Vitale still expects the vote to take place before the Jan. 9 deadline. If not, senators will have to resume the trial when the next legislative session begins.

Plans for a solution

Although there is optimism about an agreement in the future, those in attendance were not pleased to learn that the vote had stalled.

“Enough is enough,” said Patrick Ashton, a representative of the United Auto Workers, a union that represents casino dealers. “If we can’t get this bill passed in the Senate Health Committee – a smoking bill? …We’re still here, begging for our lives? It’s a shame.”

Opponents of the current bill are calling for changes to allow for separate, enclosed smoking rooms. They are also looking for improved ventilation systems in casinos.

Smoking bans would affect economic dynamism

Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small does not support the bill in its current form. He expressed sympathy for both sides but expressed concerns that smoking ban rules would hurt the economic momentum that casinos have built in recent years.

The issue of revenue savings is also complicated, as the city lost half of its $5.2 billion in revenue last year to online technology and sports betting partners.

“If there’s some kind of compromise that’s a win-win and everyone comes together and we can maintain the integrity of the workplace, then I’m all for it,” Small said.

The United Auto Workers called the smoking room idea “absurd” and urged lawmakers to reject the idea when it is formally introduced.

C3 Gaming, a casino consulting firm, said casinos that have banned smoking are economically fruitful. It cited examples in nearby Washington, DC, Boston, Massachusetts and Maryland.


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