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  • Smoking permitted in 25% of Atlantic City gaming floors
  • Campaigners say smoking affecting workers' health
  • Casinos concerned banning smoking would hit revenues

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An Atlantic City casino smoking ban would improve the health of workers, but research suggests revenues would fall

Independent research into the effects a smoking ban would have on Atlantic City casinos has predicted job losses of as much as 2,500 workers off the back of a downturn in players.

Officials in New Jersey are working on a bill to pass a smoking ban in order to improve the general health of the public state-wide.

New Jersey’s Democratic governor, Phil Murphy, says he will sign any bill that is put forward – something that has triggered the state’s gambling industry to calculate whether a ban would either positively or negatively affect them.

Independent gambling research firm Spectrum Gaming Group have now compiled a report into what would happen if smoking in Atlantic City casino were to be criminalized.

The research into smoking in casinos comes as a group of Atlantic City workers, aided by national non-smoking groups, push for New Jersey’s public smoking law loophole to be closed. After all, while smoking is still partially legal in casinos, it is banned in most other indoor places.

There is already a partial ban on smoking in Atlantic City casinos – only 25% of any casino floor can accept smokers. But that is often where a casino is busiest.

The outcome of the research, according to SGC, is a predicted 2,500 reduction in staff and almost 11% of casino revenues wiped away.

And casinos are perhaps understandably worried that banning smoking on their gaming floors will hit their bottom lines.

“Now is not the time to enact a smoking ban,” said Joe Lupo, president of the casino association and of Atlantic City’s Hard Rock casino. “[It] could cause a devastating effect to the community and state.”

Smoking Research In Atlantic City Casinos

According to the research, between 1,021 to 2,512 jobs could be lost within the first year of a total smoking ban being implemented. The study found that each casino job is supported by $155,008 of gambling revenue.

The ban would also see revenues across Atlantic City’s casinos fall by 6.5% (up to $93m) and state tax revenues would also decrease by as much as 44%.

Smokers account for 21% of Atlantic City gamblers. It was found that they are most likely to gamble for bigger money, and spend more on other entertainment options within a casino.

Atlantic City has twice tried to ban smoking in casinos. Back in 2008 a four-week trial resulted in casinos reinstating the 25% rule after a decline in winnings for players. Last year legislation to end casino smoking fell short but has been introduced again in 2022 and received bipartisan support.

Also in 2021, smoking was banned when facemasks were required to help prevent the spread of COVID. That ban was dropped by the summer.

Issues For Casinos

Casinos may have invested heavily in air filters and ventilators in an effort to alleviate the harmful effects of passive smoking – but this might not be enough to convince legislators to keep the 25% loophole.

And perhaps the biggest problem the casino association has with the smoking ban is its concern that it would immediately deter players.

Casinos are already struggling to attract customers following the rise in online gambling across the United States. What’s more, both employment and visitation in Atlantic City are at 20-year lows due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in-person gambling revenues are yet to return to pre-COVID levels. Indeed, revenues are down 5% from what they were in 2019.

Whether casinos can prevent a total smoking ban across Atlantic City venues remains to be seen. But the tide is certainly pulling in that direction.

Eleven states, including New York, Florida, Washington and Illinois, already have smoke free laws covering 100% of non-tribal casinos. Nine more have partial smoking bans.

And with smoking uptake in America reaching an all-time low of 13% in recent years, it looks unlikely that smoker-friendly casinos will be around for too much longer.

Joseph Ellison

Joseph is a dedicated journalist and horse racing fanatic who has been writing about sports and casinos for over a decade. He has worked with some of the UK's top bookmakers and provides Premier League soccer tips on a regular basis. You'll likely find him watching horse racing or rugby when he isn't writing about sport.

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