January 12, 2022
Casino Workers Built Significant New Support During New Jersey’s Lame Duck Session
S264 Eliminates the Casino Smoking Loophole in State Law
Atlantic City, NJ – This morning, on the first full day of the new legislative session in Trenton, six senators re-introduced a bill to finally eliminate the casino smoking loophole in state law. S264 (previously S1878) “eliminates [the] smoking ban exemption for casinos and simulcasting facilities,” protecting casino workers from exposure to dangerous secondhand smoke.
The primary sponsors of the bill are Senators Shirley Turner (D) and Joseph Vitale (D), and it is co-sponsored by Senators Patrick Diegnan (D); Teresa Ruiz (D), who is also the majority leader; Vince Polistina (R); and Vin Gopal (D). A companion bill in the Assembly is expected to be introduced in the coming days.
“We applaud this bipartisan group of legislators from across New Jersey who understand that worker health must be a priority,” said Cynthia Hallett, president and CEO of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights. “Atlantic City casino workers made the most of the lame duck session to grow legislative support for closing the casino smoking loophole that puts their health at risk. Now, we are confident that this legislation will pass both chambers and land on Governor Murphy’s desk in the coming months to make a smokefree workplace a reality for thousands of casino workers in New Jersey.”
“This bill will pass when it’s brought to a vote, and we will not let up on legislators and Governor Murphy until that happens,” said Nicole Vitola, a longtime casino dealer and co-leader of Casino Employees Against Smoking’s Effects (CEASE). “We don’t have time to wait. Every day we go to work we risk our health getting worse and worse. Especially during yet another wave of COVID cases in our state, this is unacceptable. It’s time to get this bill passed as soon as possible so that we no longer have to choose between our health and a paycheck.”
Assembly Health Committee Chair Herb Conaway said last month, “I’d like to get it done.” Conaway, a physician and the Burlington County health director, said, “We have a number of employees who, as a condition of their work, are exposed to this carcinogen.”
Play NJ named the casino loophole as one of five stories to watch in 2022: “The most likely [bill] to see swift action is a total smoking ban inside Atlantic City casinos. The gambling parlors are among the state’s last exemptions for allowing indoor smoking. COVID-19 makes this a public health issue and lawmakers will not want to hear about lost revenue for casinos.”
Last month, two key legislators announced their co-sponsorship of smokefree casino legislation. Deputy Speaker Paul Moriarty became the fourth prime sponsor of the bill, and Senator Vin Gopal (D-Monmouth), who is the Senate Majority Conference Leader and a member of the Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee, signed on in the Senate.
During his December 20 press conference, Governor Murphy once again voiced his support for eliminating the casino smoking loophole in state law that exposes casino workers to secondhand smoke at their workplaces. “If a bill came to my desk that did ban [smoking in casinos], I would sign it,” said Murphy.
A new video published last month, “A Loophole in NJ Law Is Killing Casino Workers,” highlights the urgency of the casino workers’ fight to close the casino loophole.
Casino Employees Against Smoking’s Effects (CEASE) is a group of thousands of casino dealers and other front-line gaming workers that formed after indoor smoking returned on July 4, 2021 and is fighting to permanently remove smoking from their workplaces. For more information, visit ceasesmoking.org.
ABOUT AMERICANS FOR NONSMOKERS’ RIGHTS
Americans for Nonsmoker’s Rights (ANR) is a member-supported, non-profit advocacy group that has been working for 45 years, since 1976, to protect everyone’s right to breathe nontoxic air in workplaces and public places, from offices and airplanes to restaurants, bars, and casinos. ANR has continuously shined a light on the tobacco industry’s interference with sound and life-saving public health measures and successfully protected 61% of the population with local or statewide smokefree workplace, restaurant, and bar laws. ANR aims to close gaps in smokefree protections for workers in all workplaces, including bars, music venues, casinos, and hotels. For more information, please visit https://no-smoke.org and https://smokefreecasinos.org.