By Ryan Gaydos
- Rise of Smoke-Free Gambling and What it Means for Atlantic City
- Why Smoking and Gambling Still Go Together Across the Country
- How Going Smoke-Free Could Change the Casino Experience
- Analyzing the Pros and Cons of Saying Goodbye to Smoky Casinos
Atlantic City casinos are the last bastion for smokers in the Northeast region
As of now, cigarette smoking has been prohibited during this pandemic era and there is a growing demand to make it permanent. Len Lombardo, retired at 74 years-old leans against a black plastic ashtray as he presses on that $5 slot button in Resorts Casino Hotel. Nearby, his fellow smoker from Pennsylvania who seems lucky with her streak gives out puffs from Newport accompanied by her sister sitting beside her machine.
The air used to smell like cigarettes and cigars before 2006, when it was not allowed to smoke indoors. But because of the pandemic, smoking inside places like 1xBet casinos is happening less often now.
Rise of Smoke-Free Gambling and What it Means for Atlantic City
Atlantic City is the main gambling center in the United States outside of Nevada. Lots of people are supporting and recognizing the plan to stop smoking on casino floors, which could really change things for the industry. Cynthia Hallett from Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights has been fighting for smoke-free casinos, airplanes, and bars for over 40 years now. She said that many people are watching what happens in Atlantic City very closely.
Nearly two-dozen states, like New York and Massachusetts, have prohibited smoking in casinos
Some casinos like Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods in Connecticut let Native Americans gamble. Four Navajo Nation casinos do not even allow smoking. Lots of states don’t let people smoke in casinos because of the virus. Atlantic City is one of the few places left where you can smoke if you are in the Northeast US area.
John Cirrincione is the CEO of Santa Ana Star Casino Hotel in New Mexico. He used to think that smokers were more likely to gamble, but he found out this isn’t true. People don’t want to go to places with a lot of smoke. His casino is small and can’t help bigger cities like Atlantic City. But he did something important: he got rid of smoking at his casino after COVID-19 started. Other casinos could do this too, and it would make big changes if everyone did it.
Why Smoking and Gambling Still Go Together Across the Country
Mark Giannantonio, the CEO of Resorts and President of New Jersey’s Casino Association, acknowledges that eliminating smoking in casinos might be inevitable; yet he still stands against such an action at this point in time. He has sound economic reasons for his stance: the long-term consequences from Covid-19, a possible recession looming on the horizon as well as three new potential gambling halls near NYC. As Mr.Giannatonio puts it,”the economics are real”.
Roger Colao said that employees feel betrayed because they are around secondhand smoke, which can be dangerous
He said people know the dangers of smoking, but still choose to make money over safety. Nicole Vitola was mad when Atlantic City allowed smoking again after a year without it in 2021. Both her children (21 and 16) were alive when she worked at Borgata Casino while pregnant.
“How can they tell me ‘We’re here to protect you, we’ll take care of you’ while the pandemic is happening if when it’s all over, cigarettes come back and our health risks are just forgotten?”, wonders Ms. Vitola (48) who wears an N95 mask at work for safety against smoke inhalation.
How Going Smoke-Free Could Change the Casino Experience
Last summer, Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects (CEASE), was founded by Ms. Vitola and has since grown to establish chapters in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. To spread awareness of the risks connected with secondhand smoke–which include heart disease, lung cancer and stroke according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention–members ventured off to Las Vegas last month to further the mission.
Lamont White, who has been employed as a card dealer in different Atlantic City casinos since 1985, expressed that their displeasure is not with the casinos but rather the state. The state protects pretty much everyone else – aside from casino workers.
In 2006, the New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act allowed casinos, simulcasting facilities, cigar bars and tobacco shops to let people smoke
This means that about one fourth of all gambling floors in Atlantic City’s nine casinos allow smoking. People who do not smoke and people who do smoke are close together when they are gambling.
Many people support a bill that would make it against the law to smoke in casinos in New Jersey. Governor Phil Murphy said he will sign the bill if it passes both the Assembly and Senate. This means smoking in casinos will be against the law.
State Senator Joseph F. Vitale, who is spearheading this initiative as well as leading the Senate’s health committee commented: “People are suffering – some have already died due to casino-related illnesses caused by breathing secondhand smoke…It’s time we put an end to these archaic practices which not only endanger people’s lives but also violate their morality.”
Analyzing the Pros and Cons of Saying Goodbye to Smoky Casinos
Despite previous unsuccessful sessions, the bill has once again remained stagnant. In July, Senator Nicholas Scutari said he thinks the law will pass one day. He said that money and other things might prevent it from happening. Many people in Southern New Jersey who work at casinos and hotels are worried about this law. Mr. White says that lawmakers need to wait until after the elections to make any big decisions on this law.
In a text, Mr. Scutari stated that he had no further comment to make on the matter. Meanwhile, based off of an analysis carried out at the behest of the casino industry, Mr. Giannantonio postulated that should smoking be banned in these locations, there would likely be a decline in revenue ranging from 10-11%, which could subsequently result in up to 2,500 jobs being lost – bringing total employment down to roughly 22 thousand (a significant decrease compared with pre-pandemic statistics collected last December).
In the last 20 years, smoking has become less popular in the US
In 2020, only 12.5% of adults smoke compared to 23.3% in 2000 (according to the Centers for Disease Control). But smokers still visit Atlantic City and they give 32% of all money earned by casinos there – a really big number!
If smoking is not allowed, some people might go to another state that still allows it. Smokers have to leave their table and go outside, so they will spend less time playing games in the casino. This could mean a loss of $16.62 for the casino over two hours, according to a report by Spectrum.
A union that represents casino card dealers wants to have a law that stops people from smoking in casinos. But another union, which represents other casino and hotel workers, does not want this law. Bob McDevitt from Local 54 said the law will cause people to lose money and jobs.
The Mayor of Atlantic City, Marty Small, does not want a smoking ban
But the City Council do. A consulting group called C3 Gaming did a study and found that there would not be bad effects on money and jobs if the smoking ban happened. Andrew M Klebanow of C3 Gaming commented that Spectrum’s report was mainly based off ancient data.
Parx Casino in Bensalem, Pennsylvania near Philadelphia made a lot of money from people playing slots. It did even better after it didn’t allow smoking when they reopened after the pandemic. Eric Hausler, President and Chief Executive at Greenwood Racing Inc., which owns Parx said “It’s been great for our team; less wear and tear on the building.”
Despite a slight drop in sales, the industry is still prosperous according to him
Lisa Mell, 62 years old and residing in Somers Point N.J., visits Atlantic City twice monthly for her relaxation needs — smoking and gambling being two of them. With conviction she announced “It goes hand in hand! If one can’t be done at the same time it won’t feel as pleasurable or fun”. Ms. Mell was playing slots at Resorts Casino during an early weekday morning when making this statement; reinforcing that their union must remain intact if engaging within these recreational activities is truly to be enjoyed and experienced properly
Many gamblers have superstitions about leaving and missing out on a win
They would rather stay in the same place and smoke instead of risk losing a chance to win big. Mike Coover, who smokes one pack per day and is a plumber at Tropicana, said: “You never know when it could be your lucky shot!” During the yearlong ban from smoking inside, he still had to go outside for his smoky break – but staying in the same spot can make all the difference.
Mr. Lombardo noted that since the ban on smoking in casinos, he visits Atlantic City less frequently, due to his inability to smoke while gaming. He does still make trips there though, and when he does come around prefers to stay only in designated smoking areas.