Representatives of Atlantic City casino workers have stated that there are multiple reasons to finally implement a smoking ban in the city’s casinos, with the latest argument pointing out that a move to non-smoking casino floors would encourage responsible gaming on the part of patrons.
The argument holds that problem gaming is more likely to take hold when a player at a gaming table or slot machine can smoke while they play. If they don’t need to take a smoke break whenever they want to light up, they can continue to stand at the machines and play for longer, meaning that the chance to walk away and get a reality check isn’t taken.
The question of whether there will be a smoking ban implemented in Atlantic City has gained more saliency in recent months, as an increasing number of state lawmakers have explicitly backed health-related measures to stop smoking in casinos. The issue itself has been raised by casino workers and their representatives, whose arguments that second-hand smoke is injurious to staff are impossible to disagree with.
The counter-argument, mostly made by casino owners and CEOs, is that banning smoking in casinos would drive down revenues and would inevitably mean lost jobs – with present estimates putting the number of potential redundancies at around 2,500, with a revenue loss as large as 25%.
Increasingly, the feeling is that something is going to have to give. The core argument from the Casino Association of New Jersey (CANJ) is that if smoking is banned in Atlantic City casinos, potential visitors will instead choose to go to Pennsylvania, right next door to New Jersey, where casinos still allow smoking in designated areas inside casinos. In New Jersey, casinos can give over 25% of their indoor space to areas where people can smoke and play slots and table games at the same time.
This is a difficult issue, and emotive on both sides. Many on the side of casino workers, including the growing representative body CEASE (Casino Employees Against Smoking’s Effects) argue that the estimates for revenue and job losses are exaggerated, and that smoke-free environments could actually encourage players who are currently reluctant to play in casinos that allow smoking. Another strand to the question is that it really shouldn’t be a matter of simple financial accounting – how many job losses are considered to be acceptable if it means that lives are saved?
One thing is for sure: until such time as a plan is ironed out to protect the health of casino workers which also protects casino revenues, there is going to be a continued focus on a partial or total smoking ban in casinos. It seems undeniable that the number of lawmakers backing legislation against indoor smoking is more likely to grow than to shrink. And with the latest acknowledgement that a smoking ban could reduce problem gambling, the momentum in the debate is growing on the side of a ban.