December 9, 2021 Casino, Legal, Land Based

Atlantic City casino workers voice their anger about ignored demands for smoking ban

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No action on the bill has been taken for more than a year.

Casino workers in Atlantic City have a bone to pick with the state of New Jersey after becoming outraged today when they heard that the state legislature had moved to pass a bill giving tax breaks to gambling halls while doing nothing to permanently ban smoking on the casino floor.  

Nearly two dozen workers have been working on a yearlong campaign to enact a smoking ban at Atlantic City’s nine casinos. They held a protest in Trenton on Thursday.  

Governor Phil Murphy has said he would sign a smoking ban into law once the state legislature passes it. Yet the bill has sat without action for more than a year. 

“My lungs just kept getting worse,” said Angela Martinelli, a Borgata dealer. “I’m sick of it. I’m living proof that secondhand smoke creates destruction.” 

Martinelli suffers from emphysema and needs an oxygen machine so she can breathe. 

“Why doesn’t the state of New Jersey care about us?′ asked Lamont White, another Borgata dealer.  

”Why is the [legislature] focused on tax cuts for the casinos rather than the health of their workers? Please, don’t leave us behind in the smoke.” 

White has worked in Atlantic City for 36 years. 

A temporary smoking ban had been in place due to the pandemic, but this was lifted in July of this year, and the casinos returned to the status quo of allowing smoking on 20% of the casino floor. 

“The one blessing in that pandemic is we got a break from the smoke and the cancer,” said Nicole Vitola, a Borgata dealer. “There’s no reason a pregnant woman should be subjected to secondhand smoke like I was in order to support my family.” 

As recently as Monday, outgoing state Senate President Steve Sweeney said he, Murphy and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin needed to discuss what to do about the bill or if action needs to be taken at all. Sweeny voiced concerns that a permanent ban could negatively affect business.  

“Some people tell you you lose 16% of your business if smoking is banned,” Sweeney said. 

However, casino workers maintain the argument that business improved while the temporary ban was in effect. 

The casino tax break bill could get final votes in the legislature next week. No vote has been scheduled on the smoking ban bill, which has yet to have even a preliminary hearing in a committee since being introduced in February 2020. 

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