Advertising for Atlantic City Casino Smoking Permitted at East Coast Gaming Congress

The East Coast Gaming Congress concluded today in Atlantic City, and while a number of topics were discussed during the two-day event at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, a nearby billboard managed to draw a lot of attention.

A billboard located outside of Atlantic City calls upon New Jersey leaders to allow legislators to cast a vote on legislation that would end casino smoking. The nine Atlantic City casinos are allowed to designate up to 25% of their floor space for indoor smoking. (Image: Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights)

Prior to the 2023 ECGC, a billboard was erected along the Atlantic City Expressway just outside of the casino town that features an anti-casino smoking message thanking South Jersey state lawmakers who are supporting a full ban on tobacco use inside the nine casinos.

The billboard requests that New Jersey Senate President Nicholas Scutari (D-Middlesex, Somerset, Union) and Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex) permit the state Legislature to vote on legislation that seeks to close the casino smoking loophole.

Senate Bill 264 and Assembly Bill 2151 are identical pieces of legislation that would terminate the casinos’ exemption from the state’s 2006 clean indoor air law. The measures possess adequate support among state lawmakers to send the statutes to the desk of Governor Phil Murphy (D).

The governor has declared that he would sign a bill ending casino smoking. However, Democratic leaders in Trenton are allegedly postponing the legislative efforts until after this November’s election when all 120 seats of the New Jersey General Assembly and Senate are on the ballot.

Smoke-Free Advocacy

The anti-casino smoking billboard was financially supported by Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights (ANR), a California-based advocacy organization committed to ensuring that all public places have clean indoor air. The ANR is collaborating in Atlantic City with a grassroots coalition called CEASE — Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects.

An array of Atlantic City casino personnel have informed state lawmakers that they are exhausted of working in smoky settings. During an Assembly committee hearing last month on the smoking topic, various casino employees testified on how secondhand smoke has adversely affected their health.

Table game dealer Holly Diebler’s statement struck a chord with many, as the Tropicana employee stated she is undergoing chemotherapy for throat cancer.

“I adore my job. I don’t want to leave, but my oncologists are telling me this is a life-or-death decision,” Diebler informed the Assembly Health and Tourism, Gaming, and the Arts committees.

‘Let’s Vote’ on Casino Smoke

The ANR billboard requests that Democratic leadership allow a vote on the anti-smoking bills without delay.

Thousands of Atlantic City casino workers are entitled to a vote now to protect their health and they are waiting for Senate President Scutari and Speaker Coughlin to hold that vote as soon as possible,” Cynthia Hallett, president and CEO of ANR, stated in a statement.

Hallett added that there’s no reasonable explanation for further delaying the bills that would pass effortlessly if a vote on either statute was held today.

The casinos generally oppose a full smoking ban. The Casino Association of New Jersey, which lobbies on behalf of the nine resorts in Trenton, claims annual gaming revenue would be decreased by around 25% with no smoking. And those financial losses would result in major layoffs.

Despite strong 2022 brick-and-mortar gross gaming revenue of $2.78 billion, the nine casinos stated their profits dropped almost 5% last year because of high overhead.