Atlantic City Culinary Union Opposes Smoking Ban

The largest union representing Atlantic City casino workers is opposing a proposed ban on smoking in casinos, citing the likelihood players will abandon the market for Pennsylvania casinos.

UNITE HERE Local 54, the largest union representing casino workers in Atlantic City, is opposing moves to establish a ban on smoking in local casinos that is favored by state legislatures and Governor Phil Murphy, citing the lost business to Pennsylvania, where smoking is permitted.

Atlantic City casinos were exempted from New Jersey’s 2006 Smokefree Air Act, which bans smoking in any public indoor spaces. A grassroots Atlantic City employee group, Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects, has been joined by national anti-smoking advocates in a drive to overturn that exemption. A bill to eliminate the exemption has been endorsed by a majority of bipartisan lawmakers, and Murphy has pledged to sign any bill that reaches his desk to impose a full ban.

Local 54 President Bob McDevitt told the NJ Spotlight News that such a move would result in business lost to Pennsylvania.

“If people opt not to go (to Atlantic City casinos), that means they’re not staying in the hotel, that means there’s no reason to have them make the hotel beds. It won’t just have an effect on folks who are dealers, and folks who are bartenders,” McDevitt said. “If you take away the option to smoke, and you allow it in Pennsylvania, there’s going to be a net drop in gaming in New Jersey.”

The employee group disagrees, citing data from other casinos where smoking was banned. “(Players) went outside like they do everywhere else, and then they came back in and played,” group co-founder Lamont White told the website. “The gamblers will swim through a moat of alligators to get back to a blackjack table.”

In a separate recent survey, New Jersey citizens leaned more toward McDevitt’s position—57 percent said smoking should continue to be allowed in its current limited capacity (25 percent of the floor), with another 12 percent saying smoking should be permitted on an unlimited basis in New Jersey casinos. Only 29 percent were in favor of a total smoking ban.