In July of 2020, when Atlantic City’s nine casinos re-opened with limited service, indoor smoking was not allowed at these establishments keeping in line with Covid-19 safety regulations. Over the last few months, the pandemic situation has gradually been improving, and Atlantic City is trying to bring back its large customer base. Casino operators believe that a ban on smoking will reduce its appeal to customers who will easily be able to travel to other casinos in nearby states where indoor smoking is permitted. But some state legislators are in favor of continuing the indoor smoking ban for the general health and environmental safety of all patrons.
New Jersey had legislated against indoor smoking a few years prior, but casinos had been kept exempted from this rule. Now the issue of smoking inside casinos is once again a hot topic. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has not yet made his stance on the smoking ban clear, but he is known to be sympathetic towards the anti-smoking lobby. Casino owners associations are very apprehensive of a blanket ban on indoor smoking in casinos. They cite the diverse clientele of smokers and non-smokers who visit casinos. A complete ban can drive away much of these smokers’ client base.
As an alternative to the smoking ban, casinos are suggesting air filtration systems. These systems can keep the air fresh and clean for all non-smoking patrons of the casino and also reduce the environmental impact of smoking. But according to the CDC, air filtration systems are not very effective. Ventilation and air circulation cannot protect passive smokers from the more than 70 carcinogenic chemicals released from smoking. The only solution to completely protect non-smokers is to create a completely smoke-free zone. NJ legislators in favor of the ban are drawing on these guidelines given by CDC.
Atlantic City’s economy has seen a nearly 80% drop in operational profits due to the pandemic, and casino owners are fearful of further losses. They don’t want a smoking ban to drive potential customers away to nearby Pennsylvania, where more than 50% of the casino floor is a smoking zone.
New Jersey’s health emergency is set to end on June 15. Unless a concrete smoking ban is implemented by that date, casino owners will legally be allowed to re-introduce smoking inside their establishments from 15th June onwards.