Poll: Atlantic City Casino Smoking Favored By Most New Jerseyans

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Poll: Atlantic City Casino Smoking Favored By Most New Jerseyans

The persistence of Atlantic City casino smoking has become a hot-button issue in the New Jersey capital. But a new poll finds the public generally opposes the effort to extinguish indoor smoke at the nine resorts.

Atlantic City casinos smoking New Jersey
Atlantic City casinos smoking New Jersey
A smoker gambles on a bar-top video poker machine. Atlantic City casinos continue to allow indoor smoking, and a new poll from Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey finds most state residents want to keep it that way. (Image: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) recently surveyed 801 New Jersey adult residents at random. The goal was to gauge where they stand on the ongoing allowance of tobacco smoke inside Atlantic City casinos.

Fifty-six percent answered that they favor maintaining the status quo. Currently, each Atlantic City casino is allowed to designate up to 25% of its gaming floor space for smoking. Another 12% of those polled said they would favor expanding smoking to allow smoking anywhere on the casino floor. That means nearly seven in 10 (68%) support maintaining or expanding indoor casino smoking in Atlantic City.

The FDU poll found that only 29% of likely voters in New Jersey would support making the casinos go entirely smoke-free. FDU said the poll’s margin of error is +/-3.5 percentage points.

Question About Jobs, Health

The casinos say forcing smokers to go outside to light up would result in reduced play, as those needed timeouts would likely result in some gamblers calling it a night. The Casino Association of New Jersey, the lobbying arm of the nine Atlantic City properties, has warned that 2,500 jobs would presumably be cut if smoking ended.

This is a balancing act,” said Dan Cassino, an FDU government and politics professor who oversees the university’s poll. “Smoking bans protect workers from secondhand smoke, but no one wants to risk hurting the casinos’ bottom lines and having to bail out Atlantic City. Again.”

Atlantic City’s governance has been under the state’s control since 2016. The takeover was designed to rein in runaway expenses, high taxes, and poor governance that stemmed from five casinos closing between 2014 through October 2016.

Also, since 2016, New Jersey has allowed the remaining casinos to collectively pay an annual tax based on their gross gaming revenues (GGR) instead of a flat property tax. The casinos said the property tax was far too high based on unrealistic property valuations after the gaming market crashed. New Jersey lawmakers earlier this year agreed to reduce the casinos’ payment-in-lieu-of-tax (PILOT) by removing iGaming and online sports betting from the tax calculation.

Grassroots Coalition Seeks Smoking Ban

A group of casino workers who have had enough of working in smoke-filled areas united in 2021 to form an organization called “Casino Employees Against Smoking’s Effects” (CEASE). The advocacy is being supported by “Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights,” a national lobbying organization committed to protecting nonsmokers from secondhand smoke exposure.

Their voices have been heard in Trenton. Lawmakers in the New Jersey General Assembly and Senate have lent their support to pieces of legislation that would end the casino smoking loophole.

Assembly Bill 2151 and Senate Bill 264 already have enough support by way of legislators cosponsoring the measures to pass in their respective chambers.

But neither piece of legislation has even moved out of a committee. That has spurred rumors that the Democratic-controlled legislature is mothballing the matter until after the state’s critical 2023 election.

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