A Tobacco Control Policy & Legal Resource Center
Supporting Smokefree Air & Tobacco-Free Lives
Atlantic City, NJ
Since the casinos were exempted in the 2006 New Jersey Smoke-free Air Act, a local ordinance #86 was passed by Atlantic City Council in February 2007 which restricted smoking to 25% of the gaming floor and required separate smoking and non-smoking designated areas.
On April 30, 2008, the Mayor of Atlantic City signed into law the Atlantic City ordinance that requires 100% smokefree gaming floors where employees work, effective October 15, 2008. On October 27, 2008 a new Atlantic City ordinance passed that rescinded the smokefree gaming floor ordinance and this took effect on November 16, 2008. The smokefree ordinance was in effect for only one month. For that month, casino workers and patrons reported a high level of gaming activity, revenues were better during that period. Also, New Jersey voters overwhelmingly supported smokefree casinos (autumn 2007, Monmouth University Polling Institute poll results).
Since that was rescinded, we are back to the casinos being 25% smoking-permitted. But an April 25, 2011 investigative report by Press of Atlantic City revealed that all 11 casinos are not enforcing the local Atlantic City ordinance that requires smoking not exceed 25% of the gaming floor, and that the boundries between smoking and nonsmoking areas is ignored. The Atlantic City Health Department and the NJ Attorney General’s Division of Gaming Enforcement required the Trump Taj Mahal Casino to revert to its original 2007 gaming floor plan for 25% smoking permitted. Workers and patrons routinely complain that current Atlantic City casino gaming floor plans exceed the 25% smoking limit. Read the April 27, 2011 editorial by the Press of Atlantic City.
On August 29, Atlantic Prevention Resources premiered its documentary on how secondhand smoke in Atlantic City’s casinos hurts employees and patrons. The premiere took place at Revel, the only 100% smokefree casino resort in Atlantic City. WMBC-TV featured the premiere on its broadcast, and GASP’s interview is included in the documentary and the WNBC-TV story. Read the NBC news article.
The Revel Casino Resort opened to guests on April 2, 2012 as the first 100% smokefree indoors and outside gaming resort in Atlantic City. Since then, the resort has declared bankruptcy, and changed to be smoking-permitted as the other casinos in Atlantic City. Many questioned the wisdom of changing the smokefree policy. Read the NJ.com article from July 10, 2013, “Atlantic City casino revenue on pace for worst year in two decades” about the dismal Atlantic City Casino results for the first half of 2013, including Revel, whose revenue was down 22.6 percent to $11.5 million in its first full month of letting gamblers smoke.
Read more about the Revel Resort, which rescinded their no-smoking policy on May 24, 2013, in time for the Memorial Day weekend.
Many in the casino industry claim there is a high correllation of smoking and gaming, but two non-tribal gaming facilities in New York, Aqueduct Racetrack and Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway, are currently the top two grossing racetrack with slot machines nationwide. Read a December 16, 2012 Philadelphia Inquirer article in which Karen Blumenfeld, GASP’s Executive Director, is quoted:
“We’re not really seeing the correlation where the [casino] industry has said that the only people that gamble smoke,” Blumenfeld said. “Developers are bidding for licenses in Massachusetts for smoke-free￼casinos. That leads one to believe that they believe a smoke-free casino￼model will make them money.”
As the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority works to cut crime and revitalize Atlantic City, area resorts have begun to market themselves as “family friendly” by providing a safe environment for children and teens. Read about this in a December 2011 article from the Press of Atlantic City. Additionally, Revel is kid-friendly since it opened as 100% smokefree. Read another December 2011 article from the Press of Atlantic City about general clean-up and revitalziation of the city. Read more on our webpage about support for smokefree gaming.
On March 30, 2011, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Newark, NJ announced that it is investigating all 11 Atlantic City casinos for noncompliance/compliance with the federal 2009 Americans with Disabilities Act. The investigation began in early spring 2011, and is in process. Read about the investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey.
The 2009 Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act (ADA) includes “breathing” as a “major life function” which is protected under the ADA. Casinos are places of public accommodation and need to be accessible to persons who are breathing-disabled or have other medical conditions that require not being exposed to secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke is a barrier to access these places of public accommodation, and as such places need to provide reasonable accommodations. Courts have shared that creating 100% smokefree policies may be a form of reasonable accommodation. Read a May 3, 2011 Las Vegas Review Journal article and an April 18, 2011 Las Vegas Sun article regarding the issue of whether casino policies to allow smoking inside their premises violates the ADA.
Current Ordinance Status
On October 26, 2008, the Council voted to reinstate the original ordinance allowing smoking on 25% of the gaming floors. A key section was added to the original ordinance #86 (allows 25% smoking), which requires an annual review of whether the 25% smoking is compliant, etc. The review is the responsibility of the Council’s Revenue and Finance Committee, as per the ordinance.
The Atlantic City City Council’s Revenue and Finance Committee (“Committee”) was required to review Ordinance #95 in one year, which took effect on October 27, 2008. That ordinance reinstated smoking on up to 25% of the gaming floors.
FYI, from October to December 2009, the Committee received information from interested parties, for their deliberations. The Committee received information from the Atlantic County Smokefree Coalition, encouraging them to reinstate smokefree gaming floors, which were in effect for one month from October 15 to November 15, 2008. The casino industry pleaded economic downturn, despite other smokefree gaming jurisdictions producing better revenues than Atlantic City. Read the letter GASP sent to the Council for the review. Read a summary of 2008 monthly casino revenue as reported by the NJ Casino Control Commission.
On December 9, 2009, the Atlantic City City Council’s Revenue and Finance Committee (3 members) reported their recommendation to City Council. The Committee recommended that the status quo remain until 2011, keeping Ordinance #95 intact, with 25% of the gaming floor as smoking permitted. During the public portion of the meeting, we are unaware of the City Council making a motion to accept the Committee’s recommendation, and unaware of Council voting to accept the recommendation.
In April 2011, an investigative report by the Press of Atlantic City revealed that all 11 casinos were not enforcing the local Atlantic City ordinance that requires smoking not exceed 25% of the gaming floor, and that the boundries between smoking and nonsmoking areas was ignored.
In April 2011, the Atlantic City Health Department and the NJ Attorney General’s Division of Gaming Enforcement required the Trump Taj Mahal Casino to revert to its original 2007 gaming floor plan for 25% smoking permitted. Workers and patrons routinely complained that current Atlantic City casino gaming floor plans exceed the 25% smoking limit. The April 27, 2011 editorial by the Press of Atlantic City confirms this.
Around April 2011, the DGE communicated with Atlantic City officials about the need for oversight regarding noncompliance with the local casino smoking ordinance (as documented in the Whereas clauses of a proposed April 13 resolution, which unanimously failed to pass), specifically: The DGE stated that each casino must be in compliance with laws to retain their certificate of operation.
On April 13, 2011, two Council members proposed Resolution #261, and all Council members voted against the proposed regulation, including the two sponsors of the resolution. The Resolution proposed:
- “WHEREAS, City Administration requests the City Council undertake a review of Ordinance #27 and assign the review to the appropriate City Council Committee and determine what amendments, if any need to be considered by Council for adoption.”
- “NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, City Council supports the Administrations’s efforts to improve enforcement of casino smoking regulations by collaborating with the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement and will undertake a review of Ordinance No. 27-2008 to determine what Amendments, if any, need to be considered by Council for adoption.”
As of January 2014, we are unaware of any reviews by the Atlantic City City Council’s Finance Committee, other than the December 9, 2009 recommendation to wait until 2011, at which time a proposed resolution based on the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement discussions, was voted against unanimously.
Past Ordinance History
As of November 16, 2008, smoking was again allowed on the gaming floors of the Atlantic City casinos. According to Ordinance #95, which Atlantic City’s City Council passed on October 27 to amend Ordinance #86 (which passed on January 24, 2007 and took effect on April 15, 2007), the casinos can designate up to 25% of their gaming floors as smoking permitted, just as it was prior to October 15. Ordinance #95 does not even require automatic reinstatement of Ordinance #27, which required smokefree gaming floors. This means that #95 could keep smoking in the casinos indefinitely, according to Section 1 of #95, which states that after one year, the Revenue and Finance Committee will review the situation.
From October 15 – November 15, 2008, the casinos gaming floors were required to be 100% smokefree with the exception of separately enclosed and ventilated non-staffed smoking lounges as per Ordinance #27.
On October 15, 2008, a press conference comprised of casino dealers, NJ GASP, other tobacco control advocates, and the United Auto Workers Union, marked a historic milestone in casino workplace conditions in Atlantic City, the third highest gaming revenue producer in the world. Atlantic City gaming floors, where employees work, went 100% smokefree; casinos were permitted to maintain separately enclosed and ventilated non-staffed smoking lounges for patrons, on the gaming floors. View NJ GASP’s October 15 press release.
As of October 15, casino workers reported no confusion with implementing the new smoking restrictions. Initial implementation transitioned smoothly at 12:01 am on October 15. Read the Press of Atlantic City’s October 15th article and the publication’s October 16th article about the smooth transition after the ban went into effect.
Even with this positive feedback, the casinos voted to bring back smoking on the gaming floors. Some of the casinos who pushed for this did not even opt to build smoking lounges on their gaming floors, but seven out of ten casinos built smoking lounges that opened on October 15, and two more casinos had plans to build these smoking lounges. On October 8, the City Council voted 5-4, in favor of proposed ordinance #16-H (renumbered after the first reading to #95), which allows smoking to return to the gaming floors.
On October 14, 2008, the day before implementation of Ordinance #27, the Atlantic City Council decided to hold a special meeting on October 27, to vote on the second reading of proposed ordinance #95 (formerly #16-H). The original meeting to vote on second/final reading of #95 was scheduled for October 22, but one of #95′s sponsors was out of town on October 22.
The second and final reading of proposed ordinance #95 occurred on October 27 at 5 pm, at Atlantic City’s City Hall. The vote was 5-4 in favor of ordinance #95 to return smoking to the gaming floors. The councilmen who voted to keep smoking on the gaming floors included Marty Small, John Schultz, Dennis Mason, Tim Mancuso, and George Tibbitt. Mayor Evans signed the ordinance into law that evening, and it took effect 20 days later on November 16 at 12:01AM. The final result is that the casino workers had smokefree gaming floors from October 15 – November 15 but now smoking is permitted again on up to 25% of the gaming floor as it was prior to October 15.
See below for some links to stories from area newspapers:
- Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Monica Yant Kinney covers the casinos in PA, NJ and DE with the following 4 columns in May-June, 2010:
June 6, 2010 commentary about the success of the smokefree DE casinos.
May 26, 2010 commentary about the number of casino workers who must tolerate nauseating levels of secondhand smoke as part of their job description.
May 16, 2010 commentary about an escape clause in the PA law allowing casinos to double smoking sections if operators could show they took in less money in the smoke-free zones and how the PA casinos were set up to fail.
May 12, 2010 commentary about the problems of enforcement under the 2008 Pennsylvania Clean Air Act, which restricts smoking in casinos to 50% of floor space but gives no definition of segmenting smoking vs. non-smoking sections.
- Click here to read the November 18, 2008 NY Times editorial in favor of smokefree casinos in Atlantic City.
- Click here to read the November 17 and here to read the November 15 Press of Atlantic City articles on the return of smoking to the casinos, and here to read the November 16, 2007 Courier Post Online article.
- Click here to read the October 24 AP article entitled “Atlantic City dealers push to keep smoking ban”.
- Click here to read the Courier Post October 23 article entitled “No drop-off at casinos despite smoking ban”.
- Click here to read the Courier Post October 25 article entitled “Smoking ban’s effect a cloudy issue”.
City Council President William Marsh in an Associated Press article: “It is the law right now… we won’t be scrambling around to try to change the date.” Click here to view the AP article. Click here to view a cartoon from the Press of Atlantic City, October 11, 2008.
The Star-Ledger editorial board issued an editorial on October 7, to support smokefree gaming floors for the workers. Click here for the editorial. Click here for a description of the intensity of the October 8 City Council meeting, according to the October 9 article in the Press of Atlantic City. Click here for the October 8 article from the Press of Atlantic City, leading up to the October 8 City Council meeting. Click here for the October 9 article by Press of Atlantic City, about what casino gamblers think about the delay.
Click here for the October 9 article on Philly.com entitled “Clean air in AC casinos may be lost to econ crisis”. Click here for an article from the Philadelphia Inquirer discussing the delay, or click here for the Las Vegas Sun article as it relates to Nevada’s smokefree initiative.
Click here for a supporting editorial from October 8 posted on NJ.com, and one published in the Star Ledger.
In September of 2008 the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority released their 2008 Visitors Profile Study, of Atlantic City visitors. One of the key findings is that nonsmokers spend more money in Atlantic City than smokers, based on a median amount ($500 for nonsmoker vs. $469 for smoker). Read the Executive Summary.
On April 30, 2008, Atlantic City Mayor Evans signs Ordinance #27, which requires 100% smoke-free casino gaming floors where employees work. View the final ordinance. Within the hour, the media announced a press release from Mr. Larry Mullin, the President of the Borgata, announed that the Borgata will become the first Atlantic City casino to go 100% smokefree in the fall, and will construct outdoor smoking areas for its smoking patrons. View the Borgata press release.
View the April 30, 2008 New Jersey GASP press release.
April 24, 2008: Atlantic City ordinance for smoke-free casino gaming floors passed by City Council. Click on a newspaper to view the related story: New York Times, Star Ledger, Philadelphia Inquirer, Press of Atlantic City, Las Vegas Sun.
New Jersey GASP Press release, April 23, 2008: Atlantic City to require 100% smoke-free casino gaming floors where employees work, to view click here.
On April 23, 2008, Atlantic City Council, on second reading, voted unanimously, 9-0, in favor of Ordinance #27, which amends Ordinance #86. To see Ordinance #86, click here. Ordinance #27 requires that on October 15, 2008, all casino gaming floors be smokefree where employees work. Casinos may construct nongaming smoking lounges, that are non-staffed, and separately enclosed and ventilated, on up to 25% of the gaming floor. Mayor Evans has 20 days from the date of the vote of the second reading of Ordinance #27 to sign the ordinance. Councilmen Bruce Ward, Gene Robinson, George Tibbitt, and Stephen L. Moore are the prime sponsors of Ordinance #27.
The first reading of Ordinance #27, introduced as Ordinance #5-A took place on April 9, 2008, and the City Council voted unanimously 9-0 in favor. The original proposed 5-A provided a 90-day effective date, but October 15, 2008 became the effective date agreed upon by City Council at the Ordinance’s first reading, on April 9, 2008. On March 26, both Councilmen Ward and Tibitt expected to introduce a similar proposed amendment at that council meeting, but the proposed amendment was tabled until the April 9 hearing.
The original Ordinance #86, that took effect on April 15, 2007, required that the casinos submit applications to the NJ Department of Community Affairs by September 15, 2007, if casinos wanted to build smoking rooms on up to 25% of the gaming floor.
The original Ordinance #86 took effect on April 15, 2007, and allows smoking on up to 25% of the gaming floor (it passed 6-3 on February 7, 2007). Since Ordinance #86 continued to expose workers and patrons to secondhand smoke on the gaming floors, on June 19, 2007, the Atlantic City City Council unanimously enacted a resolution that “recommends and urges the NJ State Legislature to become more aggressively involved with amending the New Jersey Smoke Fee Air Act, N.J.S.A. 26:3D-55, to include language which prohibits smoking 100% in all Atlantic City Casinos.” To view resolution, click here.
For information on problems with the original Ordinance #86 that took effect on April 15, 2007, click here. On February 15, 2007, syndicated columnist Steve Adubato, Ph.d, wrote a column to support 100% smokefree gaming floors, subsquent to Atlantic City’s City Council passing their ordinance that permits smoking on up to 25% of the gaming floor. Click here to read, “A 75 Percent ‘Smoke Free Zone’ in Casinos? Only in New Jersey”.
Here’s more info on the original Ordinance #86 that took effect on April 15, 2007, and the process:
Atlantic City original Ordinance #86, that took effect on April 15, 2007, did not protect employees and patrons. Here’s why:
- The casinos can designate up to 25% of the gaming areas as smoking, with no physical barriers. Smoking-permitted areas are scattered throughout the nonsmoking sections. Air testing in casinos in New York and Ontario that have (had) designated sections shows that smoke permeates the nonsmoking areas. To see the summary of the scientific study, click here.
- The New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act (SFAA) already requires the casinos to make non-gaming areas nonsmoking, but there is a well-documented history of poor compliance with the SFAA by the casinos (click here for a report). Reports by NJGASP testers show that the 75-25 split results in similar noncompliance.
- The ordinance says casinos must ultimately enclose smoking sections with walls and install separate ventilation for the smoking areas, but that requirement has no deadline. Since the enactment date of April 15, 2007, not one casino has begun to build a separately enclosed and ventilated smoking room.
- If the separate smoking sections are created, they may be even more polluted than the current gaming areas (because pollution is a function of smoking density and because no ventilation can eliminate the tobacco smoke pollution hazard). For the results of air testing in casinos in Rhode Island that have walled and separately-ventilated sections, click here.
- Employees are at risk to be assigned to these smoking sections on any shift, even on every shift. While the ordinance limits the smoking-permitted areas to no more than 25% of the floor area, casinos may assign more than 25% of employees to work in these areas; casinos may place table games, that require more employees, in the smoking area and may fill the nonsmoking areas with slot machines. Furthermore, people who smoke might avoid gaming in the extra-polluted smoking section, but then use the smoking section just to smoke, thereby increasing the pollution.
- The ordinance creates many personnel problems for employees and casinos. It may pit employee against employee in their efforts to avoid working in the smoking sections. Casinos may offer employees incentives to work in these smoking sections, and employees who accept those incentives may be those who are least informed about secondhand smoke hazards or most desperate to keep their jobs. It is not clear what actions casinos may take against employees who refuse to work in the smoking areas.
There were seven public hearings by the Council at which there were numerous and passionate requests from casino workers for smokefree casinos, backed by numerous and authoritative presentations of supporting information from public health professionals. Every hearing drew several hundred people, filling the Council chamber. There were far fewer public statements of opposition to smokefree casinos and the casinos made only a few public statements in that forum. On the first three votes for the measures, the Council voted unanimously for smokefree casinos. However, the measure was tabled on December 29, 2007 for fact-finding hearings, which took place in January.
On Monday, January 22, two days before the final passage was expected, it was reported in the news media that the Council had met with the casinos privately and that the 75-25 measure would be introduced and was expected to pass. No casino workers or public health professionals were informed of these meetings or allowed to participate.
On Wednesday, January 24, at the Atlantic City Council meeting, over the protests of the workers and advocates, many of whom said they’d rather have no ordinance than the amended ordinance 86, the Council voted 6 to 3for the amended ordinance, publicly stating this was, in part, to avoid a lawsuit from the casinos. Final vote was February 7. The mayor signed the ordinance, and the ordinance took effect on April 15, 2007.