Panel discussion on Atlantic City casino smoking is scrapped

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Whether casinos ought to proceed to permit smoking is a contentious difficulty in quite a few states, significantly New Jersey, the place the governor and greater than half the state Legislature helps a invoice to ban indoor smoking in playing halls.

A now-cancelled discussion between a casino govt and smoking foes was shaping as much as be a spotlight of a significant playing convention later this month in Atlantic City, and would’ve been the primary detailed public airing of the difficulty.

But the casino govt, Resorts Casino President Mark Giannantonio — who has since turn into head of the Atlantic City casinos’ commerce affiliation, which vehemently opposes a smoking ban — pulled out of the session.

It’s the newest indication of how thorny this dispute has turn into, and the way troublesome will probably be to discover a decision that may fulfill everybody.

Hundreds of Atlantic City’s casino staff have been pushing for 2 years for an indoor smoking ban, saying secondhand smoke harms their well being and that of casino prospects. They notice that casinos are the one exception to New Jersey’s clear air regulation, which bans smoking from different indoor workplaces. The casinos, nonetheless, predict that smoking prospects will abandon the casinos if there is a ban, inflicting lost jobs and plunging income as casinos nonetheless battle to return to pre-pandemic efficiency ranges.

A invoice that may finish smoking in Atlantic City’s 9 casinos is pending within the state Legislature, the place it enjoys broad bipartisan assist, however has remained stalled. No vote has but been scheduled on it. An an identical invoice died in final year’s session, although Democrat Gov. Phil Murphy has mentioned he’ll signal it if it passes.

Giannantonio mentioned Tuesday that the group’s position stays unchanged.

“The Casino Association of New Jersey has been very transparent in its position that an immediate smoking ban would have a significant adverse effect on Atlantic City,” he said. “We believe that more time is needed to devise and implement a solution that will address the concerns of our employees without jeopardizing jobs and benefits to seniors.”

Cancellation of the Atlantic City smoking discussion means that two of the industry’s biggest annual gatherings — the East Coast Gaming Congress and the Global Gaming Expo, which is due to take place next month in Las Vegas — will both lack any discussion on ending indoor smoking. That’s despite moves in numerous states including New Jersey, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and others to implement casino smoking bans.

Michael Pollock, managing director of Spectrum Gaming Group, which helped organize the East Coast Gaming Congress, said the group tried to find a replacement from the casino industry after Giannantonio withdrew from the panel, but was unable to secure one on short notice.

Organizers of the conference issued a revised schedule on Friday that did not include the planned session on casino smoking.

Aside from Giannantonio, other panelists were to have been Cynthia Hallett, president and CEO of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, and Eric Hausler, CEO of Greenwood Racing which owns the Park Casino in Pennsylvania, where smoking is banned.

Hallett said Atlantic City casino executives are avoiding the issue.

“It’s remarkably telling that Atlantic City casinos couldn’t find one person to publicly defend their position in favor of indoor smoking,” Hallett said. “They know that they cannot win on the facts — even their economic arguments have been thoroughly rebutted — so they are avoiding a public discussion.

“We are disappointed that this conversation will be missing from the formal conference program, but rest assured: The presence of casino workers who have been fighting for their health will be felt next week,” she mentioned.


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