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New Jersey lawmakers are set to a law change that would prohibit smoking in all Atlantic City casinos. The proposed bill is the first move by the state in almost three years to address the issue that has been causing problems among casino gamblers and making some of its staff sick.
The hearing will take place on February 13 and see New Jersey’s Senate Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee converge to discuss the proposed bill. Sen. Joseph Vitale, a sponsor of the measure, disclosed that the committee had no intention of voting that same day.
Vitale stated that the forthcoming hearing would ensure that the committee carried out a “thorough discussion” concerning the effect of the proposed anti-smoking bill on “casino employees, customers and the gaming industry”.
In 2006, New Jersey introduced a law banning indoor smoking; however, casinos were exempted from the bill. The new regulation, if passed, will seal off the loophole exploited by gaming venues, where smoking is allowed on up to 25% of the casino floor.
In recent years, casino staff have pushed for a ban on smoking in gaming halls due to the health complications caused by secondhand smoke. Besides New Jersey, casino employees in states like Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island have fought to change smoking laws.
Casino operators have claimed that if a total smoking ban were issued, there would be significant job and revenue loss in the gaming industry. The anti-smoking parties oppose this argument.
The CEO and president of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, Cynthia Hallett, revealed that the hearing brought casino workers, table dealers in particular, a step closer to working in a smoke-free environment.
“This hearing means that Atlantic City casino workers are one step closer to not having to choose between their health and a paycheck,” stated Hallett.
“It’s a historic moment in the fight to protect the health of thousands of New Jersey workers. Dealers bear the brunt of the dangerous secondhand smoke more harshly than anyone else working in casinos, and their voices must carry the most weight.”
Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy announced that he would sign the bill if it passed the legislature.