Study Reports Smoking Ban Would Hurt Atlantic City Casinos

Casino dealer. Ole Scarff / AFP

Atlantic City already prohibits smoking in 75 percent of the casino floor but if an anti-smoking group has its way, there will be a total smoking ban on all the gaming floors throughout Atlantic City.  

And the Survey Says… 

The Spectrum Gaming Group, an independent gambling research firm, was commissioned by the Casino Association of New Jersey to deliver a study on the financial effects of a smoking ban in Atlantic City. The report supported the casinos’ contention that eliminating smoking would drastically reduce business as smokers would opt for smoker-friendly casinos elsewhere. 

The study reported that 21 percent of the customers who frequented Atlantic City casinos were smokers and that they reportedly lost more money gambling and spent more money outside the casino floor in restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues. In other words, the biggest customers were now going to be those most adversely affected by the change in policy and could flee to neighboring casinos.  

The data collected also concluded that the smoking ban would trigger as high as a 10 percent job loss in Atlantic City and an 11 percent decline in gaming revenue due to decreased traffic. Another $93 million in offshoot revenue, non-gambling related, would also vanish which would result in approximately $44 million in lost tax revenue.  

Joe Lupo, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey and Atlantic City’s Hard Rock casino, said, “Now is not the time to enact a smoking ban,” he said, adding that doing so “could cause a devastating effect to the community and state.” 

Anti-Smoking Group Speaks Out 

Many of the casino workers are concerned about second-hand smoke and the deleterious effects it can have on their health. The workers have begun to rally around the smoking ban despite the findings of the report above.  

Nicole Vitola, a Borgata dealer and a member of Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects (CEASE), stated, “This study, paid for by the casino industry, shows once again that they care more about outdated business practices than they do about the lives and health of their workers. Casinos’ blatant disregard for our well-being is disgraceful, especially after they just received tens of millions of dollars in tax breaks from the state.” 

A bill banning smoking in Atlantic City casinos was introduced last year but died in the legislature. However, it is reported that the bill will resurface in this year’s legislative session and have a better chance of getting passed.  

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has already stated he would sign the bill if it came across his desk. But the debate in the legislature is not expected to be smooth sailing for the anti-smoking advocates as the potential loss of jobs coupled with decreased revenue for the casinos and, by default, the slash in tax revenue generated by those casinos may be too much to stomach for many pro-casino legislators.  

The debate will rage in the New Jersey legislature and TheRx will continue to monitor events as they unfold and report back to our readers.