Atlantic City Casino Workers Discuss State of Their Health as Gov. Gives State of the State

Atlantic City casino workers have set an April 15 deadline for New Jersey lawmakers to act on legislation that closes the indoor smoking loophole afforded to the nine gaming resorts.

Atlantic City casino smoking New Jersey gambling
Atlantic City casino workers who want indoor smoking extinguished rally on the Boardwalk on April 12, 2022. “CEASE — Casino Employees Against Smoking’s Effects” — say Trenton needs real leadership to extinguish harmful smoke inside their workplaces. (Image: AP)

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) will deliver his fifth State of the State address on Tuesday night. The governor, who narrowly avoided being ousted during his 2021 reelection campaign, will lay out the key issues and initiatives his administration will seek to accomplish over the next 12 months.

Down the shore, many casino workers are hoping Murphy publicly addresses the ongoing allowance of indoor tobacco smoking in Atlantic City. New Jersey’s 2006 Smoke-Free Air Act provided allowances for casinos in Atlantic City to designate up to 25% of their gaming space for cigarettes and other tobacco consumption.

“CEASE — Casino Employees Against Smoking’s Effects” — has been leading the grassroots movement to convince state lawmakers to close the casino smoking exemption since Murphy lifted his emergency COVID-19 order in early July 2021. The governor’s pandemic decree had temporarily suspended indoor casino smoking. But gamblers were allowed to light back up after the directive expired.

Casino Workers State of Health

CEASE was cofounded by Pete Naccarelli, Nicole Vitola, and Lamont White. All three are Borgata table game dealers. They say the “state of our health is poor, and it’s past time for the state to address it.”

The group released an address of their own today on YouTube. The video message calls on Murphy and state lawmakers to act on legislation to end casino smoking by April 15.

The date marks the 17th anniversary since the 2006 passage of the state’s clean indoor air act that excluded Atlantic City casinos from the full scope of the law.

We’ve had to breathe this poison through pregnancies, while receiving treatment for cancer, and while wondering what exactly is happening to our health as yet another smoker lights up three feet in front of us, not giving a damn about our well-being,” said Vitola.

The CEASE organizers believe Trenton needs real leadership. Two identical bills introduced to the state Assembly and Senate already have adequate support by way of lawmakers lending their names as co-sponsors to pass the statutes to Murphy. The governor has said repeatedly that he would sign legislation to permanently extinguish casino smoking should such a statute reach his desk.

“The only remaining hurdle is leadership. The legislature has the power to save lives by urging action on a popular bill that has a strong majority of New Jerseyans’ support,” Vitola added.

CEASE State of Casino Workers’ Health:

Legislative Holdup

It isn’t clear why Democrats aren’t moving Assembly Bill 2151/Senate Bill 264 forward in either legislative chamber. Rumblings around Trenton suggest that the Democratic leadership, which maintains power in both chambers, wants to wait until after the 2023 election when the occupants of all 120 Assembly and Senate seats will be decided.

The Casino Association of New Jersey and the casino industry workers’ union — Unite Here Local 54 — oppose efforts to eliminate indoor smoke from the gaming floors. The groups believe that such a regulatory change would result in reduced gaming revenue, as gamblers might take their business to nearby Philadelphia, where casinos are allowed to permit indoor smoking.