Atlantic City Casino Smoking Lingers 45 Years After State Legalized Gambling

Atlantic City casino smoking remains permitted indoors on up to 25% of each gaming floor. But as New Jersey commemorates the 45-year passage of its Casino Control Act that allowed slot machines and table games in Atlantic City, some resort workers are calling for a major regulatory change.

Atlantic City casino smoking CEASE
“Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects” (CEASE) holds a rally in Atlantic City. The workers’ group is urging New Jersey lawmakers to end the casino smoking loophole. (Image: CEASE)

New Jersey lawmakers in 1977 passed the Casino Control Act, a historic piece of legislation that provided the regulatory framework for commercial casino gambling in Atlantic City.

The state Assembly passed the gaming bill on April 25, 1977. The New Jersey Senate approved the measure less than a month later on May 23. Gov. Brendan Byrne (D) signed the casino statute into law on June 2.

More than 45 years later, a condition of the Casino Control Act that allows gamblers to smoke indoors while gambling persists. CEASE — “Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects” — wants to change that and create what they claim would be a cleaner, safer workplace environment for gaming industry employees.

Education Warrants Change

CEASE coleader Lamont White said it is understandable why indoor tobacco use was permitted when the state legalized casinos in Atlantic City. In 1977, far less was known about the health hazards of smoking tobacco and the associated dangers of secondhand smoke.

Over the decades since Atlantic City authorized casino gambling, a slew of groundbreaking research has educated the nation on why cigarette smoking is bad. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the US.

Smoking rates, however, have greatly declined since the 1970s, as US residents have become more informed about the negative health consequences of lighting up. In 2020, less than 13 of 100 US adults said they smoked tobacco. In the early 70s, nearly half of the adult US population fancied a cigarette.

Although we didn’t understand the serious dangers of secondhand smoke in 1977, every expert on health and clean air will now say that indoor smoking is a major public health concern and that keeping smoking in casinos only forces workers to choose between their health and their paycheck,” White told Casino.org. “If we want Atlantic City to be successful for another 45 years and beyond, it is time to do the right thing and get rid of indoor smoking.”

White cofounded CEASE after indoor casino smoking was allowed to return in Atlantic City after a temporary cessation during the COVID-19 pandemic. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s (D) transient injunction on indoor casino smoking expired ahead of the 2021 July 4 holiday weekend.

Startling Smoking Statistics

The CDC says smoking causes many diseases and delivers harm to nearly every organ of the smoker’s body.

Tobacco smoke, the federal health agency adds, is responsible for more deaths each year than HIV, illegal drugs, alcohol, motor vehicles, and firearms combined. And it isn’t only the actual smoker who is negatively impacted by tobacco use. The CDC says there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

“Completely eliminating smoking is the only way to fully protect people who do not smoke from secondhand smoke exposure,” the CDC explained.