New Atlantic City Casino Smoking “Compromise” Opposed by Advocacy Group


  • Smoking is illegal in most New Jersey workplaces except for Atlantic City casinos
  • An advocacy group said the new bill is straight from Big Tobacco
  • A bill to totally outlaw smoking in Atlantic City casinos advanced out of a committee last month

The topic of smoking in casinos has proved difficult to remedy in several locations across the country, most notably in Atlantic City.

While the smoking debate rages on, New Jersey officials presented a bill that would serve as a compromise to both sides. 

Sen. John Burzichelli submitted a bill on Monday that would uphold the current law that limits smoking to 25% of casino floor space. However, it would allow smoking in unenclosed designated smoking areas no more than 15 feet away from table games with dealers. Enclosed, ventilated areas would also be available.

A false promise? 

Casino employees have fought against smoking rules for years, citing their fears of harmful effects wrestling from long-term exposure. Campaigns in Atlantic City and other states have even resulted in workers going on strike after negotiations stalled.

Atlantic City casinos worry that banning smoking will lead gamblers to frequent definitions in nearby Pennsylvania, which allows smoking inside casinos, resulting in a decrease in jobs and revenue.

Casino employees disagree with that sentiment and argue that no-smoking casinos in other states perform just fine and that their health is more important than the casinos’ bottom line.

Casino Employees Against Smoking's Harmful Effects (CEASE), which works in Atlantic City and other states, condemned Burzichelli’s proposal (SB 2651). The group said it was straight from Big Tobacco and did not benefit the workers.

“This bill would retain the same level of smoking as is currently permitted and will not decrease in any way the amount of exposure workers have to secondhand smoke,” said the group’s statement.

CEASE also noted that the only bill with enough support to be signed into law is a total smoking ban.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network also joined the outcry and encouraged local lawmakers to reject Burzichelli's bill. 

“Since the 1980s, we've known that secondhand smoke can cause cancer, along with a host of other devastating health effects, like heart disease,” said a statement from the group. “Yet despite the crystal-clear proof that exposure to secondhand smoke is bad, and that smoke-free laws work, lawmakers continue to force Atlantic City workers to choose between their paycheck and breathing in secondhand smoke.”

Changes are coming 

Gov. Phil Murphy previously said he would enact a casino smoking bill once one was approved by the state Congress.

The bill that would totally outlaw smoking inside casinos (SB 1493) advanced out of the Senate Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee last month. Burzichelli’s bill is now undergoing a review in that same committee, though he does not know how much support it has, and the bill does not have a hearing date.

The Casino Association of New Jersey, which represents all nine New Jersey casinos, said that at least one casino could close if a total smoking ban is enforced.

In 2006, New Jersey approved a law known as the Smoke-Free Air Act that banned smoking in nearly all public workplaces except for casinos, in which smoking may occur on 25% of floor space.

New Jersey casino and legal sports betting operators won close to $5.8 billion in 2023, per the state commission’s report, setting a yearly record. However, six of the nine casinos posted figured less than those produced during the final pre-pandemic year in 2019. 

Efforts to ban smoking inside casinos are also ramping up in Kansas. HB 2722, supported by most casino employees, would prohibit smoking inside state-owned properties and racetracks. 

However, casino officials and lobbyists argue that a ban would reduce the profitability of the locations.