Atlantic City casino partial smoking ban not good enough, dealers say

Caesars in Atlantic City, N.J. (FOX 5 NY File Photo)

Atlantic City casino dealers opposed to smoking indoors are rejecting an idea being floated among state legislators to create designated outdoor smoking areas that employees could opt out of staffing.

Pete Naccarelli, a Borgata dealer and a leader of a group of Atlantic City casino workers pushing for a full indoor smoking ban, said Tuesday the opt-out suggestion is not the solution to protecting workers and customers.

"The so-called opt-out idea only forces workers to risk their health for a paycheck," he said. "It is not a solution at all.

"A casino worker living paycheck to paycheck should not have to risk their health by working in a smoking area just to get by," he said. "But that's exactly what would happen, and the most vulnerable workers would suffer most. Legislators should recognize the problematic scenario this would create and reject this half-baked idea."

Last week dealers said that creating true outdoor smoking areas "could be a workable solution as long as no worker is exposed to secondhand smoke."

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But having any casino workers assigned to those areas — or even having to pass through them on their way to other places in the casino — is not acceptable to them.

A bill that would ban smoking inside Atlantic City's nine casinos has sat untouched in the Democrat-controlled state Legislature since February. An identical bill died in last year's session, even though Democrat Gov. Phil Murphy has said he will sign it if it passes.

As of Tuesday, no legislative committee hearings had been scheduled for the bill, to which half the state Legislature has signed on as sponsors or co-sponsors.

The bill would close a loophole in New Jersey's indoor smoking law that makes casinos virtually the only indoor workplaces in the state where smoking continues to be allowed.

The Casino Association of New Jersey, the trade association for Atlantic City's casinos, opposes a smoking ban, fearing it would lead to job and revenue losses. Smoking opponents reject those assertions, pointing to places in other states where non-smoking casinos are outperforming competitors that allow it.