Featured in this article:
  • New Jersey casinos are currently exempted from the state's indoor smoking ban.
  • Lawmakers are debating whether to pass a bill eliminating the casino exemption.
  • The Atlantic City casinos are fighting against the bill, arguing it will hurt business.

3 Minute Read

Ocean Casino is one of nine Atlantic City casinos where indoor smoking is currently permitted. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

New Jersey outlawed cigarette smoking indoors in public places in 2006. However, all the New Jersey casinos in Atlantic City were exempted from the smoking ban.

Now, over 15 years later, lawmakers are considering removing the special status for New Jersey casinos. And with bipartisan support in the state capital, 2022 looks like the year smokers will have to butt out of everyone else’s business.

New Jersey Casino Smoking Ban Unpopular in A.C.

This week, the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce announced they firmly oppose extending the state’s smoking ban to New Jersey casinos. The nine casinos in A.C. are already in precarious positions due to two factors.

Borgata Casino Atlantic City, New Jersey

This Oct. 1, 2020 photo shows the exterior of the Borgata casino in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

First, the COVID pandemic, despite winding down, still has driven patrons from crowded, shared casino floors. Second, New Jersey’s status as an online and mobile gambling hub has meant players no longer have to visit the casinos. Each factor has led to the New Jersey casinos arguing they would be at a competitive disadvantage if smoking is banned.

Studies have shown a correlation between smoking and increased gambling expenditures. Smokers also tend to spend more time at casino properties and even spend more money on non-gaming items like dining and shopping. In sum, smokers are great customers for the casinos.

And people who enjoy a cigarette know the casino is one of the few places remaining where their habit is indulged. New Jersey casinos fear a smoking ban would extinguish this slice of the business, further battering their budgets.

Atlantic City Casinos Already Fighting for Survival

Though many analysts believed the threat was hollow, recently casino backers claimed some of the nine A.C. casinos may soon close. The specter of closures was raised as part of a fight over local tax bills. The casinos ended up convincing the state legislature to grant them relief from a reassessment of their bills.

But the local government in Atlantic County, where Atlantic City is located, is fighting the new property tax law. Whether they succeed on appeal will have an outsized impact on the financials of New Jersey’s casinos.

Those casinos have already lost their greatest defender at the Capitol in Trenton when New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney was shockingly defeated during November’s election. For many remaining lawmakers, giving the casinos tax relief was a tradeoff for ending the New Jersey casino smoking ban exemption. Additionally, if only 20% of casino gamblers are still smokers, would a smoking ban help drive non-smokers back to the gaming floor?

Support for ending the exemption is strong in the legislature, with almost 33% of state Senators co-sponsoring the pending bill. Governor Phil Murphy stated he will sign a bill ending the exemption if it reaches his desk.

Dave Consolazio

Dave Consolazio has been passionate about writing and sports journalism since his high school years. He has a degree in Broadcast Journalism from USC where he worked with the school's radio and television stations. His work has been featured in SportsbookReview, Sports Illustrated and SB Nation. Dave's experience ranges across multiple fields in the gambling industry. You can find his sports, casino, and poker articles in GambleOnline.co.

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