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New Jersey Residents Support Ending Casino Smoking in Atlantic City

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Posted on: May 5, 2022, 10:51h. 

Last updated on: May 5, 2022, 02:08h.

A majority of New Jersey residents who responded to a recent poll expressed support for permanently extinguishing indoor smoking at Atlantic City casinos.

New Jersey Atlantic City casino smokingNew Jersey Atlantic City casino smoking
Members of the “Casino Employees Against Smoking’s Effects (CEASE)” rally in Atlantic City in April of 2022. A new poll shows support among New Jersey adults to end indoor casino smoking. (Image: AP)

Conducted by Stockton University’s Polling Institute at the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy, 62% of respondents said they are in favor of ending the clean indoor air loophole given to the nine casinos.

The New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act of 2006 provides exemptions for gaming and simulcast wagering facilities to designate sections for indoor smoking. For casinos, the properties can set aside up to 25% of their gaming space for smoking.

The Stockton poll included responses from 640 adult residents. While 62% said they endorse a casino smoking ban, a little more than 31% said they believe the current regulatory environment should continue unchanged. The remaining 6% said they were unsure.

Regional Differences

Stockton University pollsters explained that the smoking question results fluctuated, based on where the person being polled resided.

Those in the northern part of New Jersey most distanced from Atlantic City more heavily backed a hypothetical smoking ban. Those in Southern New Jersey tended to have less enthusiasm for ending the casinos’ indoor tobacco permittance.

There’s still a majority in South Jersey supporting the ban, but it’s slightly lower — 59% in South Jersey would support it,” John Froonjian, director of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy, told New Jersey 101.5.

“There are more people who are dependent on the casino industry for jobs in the south, and the casino industry has said that if this ban goes into effect, they will lose revenue, and that will translate into job losses,” Froonjian added.

A study was commissioned by the Casino Association of New Jersey (CANJ) on the economic effects a casino smoking ban would produce. It concluded that gross gaming revenue (GGR) would drop as much as 25% in the first 12 months after such a regulatory change. Gaming analyst John DeCree of Union Gaming came to a similar conclusion this week through his own research.

Brick-and-mortar casino revenue remains suppressed compared with pre-pandemic levels. The gaming industry, as well as the leading casino workers’ union, argues that further GGR declines would result in a substantial reduction in jobs.

Atlantic City casinos have already laid off many workers since 2018. At the end of March, the nine resorts collectively employed 21,961 full- and part-time workers. In the summer of 2018, following the openings of Hard Rock and Ocean Casino, total casino employment eclipsed 30,200 people.

Secondhand Smoke Dangers

Casinos are equipped with high-tech air ventilation systems that routinely swap in clean, purified air for contaminated air. But health experts say casino employees still face harmful work environments because of the ongoing indoor smoking allowance.

There is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke,” the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains on its website.

The federal health agency adds that secondhand smoke exposure can lead to coronary heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer. The CDC says secondhand smoke in infants — predominantly caused by pregnant mothers who continue to smoke — results in more than 1,000 infant deaths annually.

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