ATLANTIC, NJ, NJ (AP) — On the 16th anniversary of a New Jersey law that banned indoor smoking in most public places — except casinos — hundreds of casino workers in Atlantic City asked state lawmakers Tuesday to ban smoking in gambling halls.
The campaign comes at a crucial time for the casino industry in Atlantic City, as it tries to win back business lost to the coronavirus pandemic and prepares for the opening of one or more New York City casinos, which will compete for many of the same clients.
Democrat Phil Murphy, the governor of New Jersey, has promised he will sign the ban if it passes the legislature, and an unusually high number of lawmakers have co-sponsored the proposal.
But he faces strong opposition from casinos and the city’s main casino workers’ union, who fear massive job losses if smoking is banned in casinos.
About 250 casino workers rallied Tuesday at a park near the ocean to call on lawmakers to pass a bill that would end exemptions for casinos from indoor public smoking bans.
They say they have suffered through years of having to breathe in smoke, watching colleagues die and getting sick themselves.
“16 years ago, the state of New Jersey left us behind in the smoke,” said Lamont White, a card dealer at the Borgata casino. “We are not numbers, we are people.”
The industry is adjusting, saying it will cost jobs and revenue amid an uneven recovery in which only two casinos have surpassed the level of profitability they achieved before the outbreak of the pandemic.
Borgata croupier Nicole Vitola said it’s irritating to see friends get sick in workplaces that lack the same health protections that other industries have.