Atlantic City casino smoking ban may cost 2,500 jobs

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A renewed push to ban smoking in Atlantic City’s casinos could cost up to 2,500 jobs, a new report has warned.

The figures from gambling research firm Spectrum Gaming Group supports casino bosses’ fears that eliminating smoking would hurt their business, deprive New Jersey of tax revenue and put thousands of people out of work.

With visits to Atlantic City casinos already at 20-year lows because of the Covid pandemic, hitting the businesses with the ban could slash nearly 11 per cent of casinos’ revenue. 

The Casino Association of New Jersey commissioned the report, with its president Joe Lupo saying a ban ‘could cause a devastating effect to the community and state.’

The report did not recommend whether smoking should be banned, an option that is gaining renewed support in the state Legislature.

New Jersey’s Democratic governor, Phil Murphy, has said he will sign a smoking ban into law if a bill is passed.

A report for the Casino Association of New Jersey says a proposed smoking ban at Atlantic City's casinos could lead to the loss of 2,500 casino jobs. Pictured: A gambler smoking while playing a slot machine at the Ocean Casino Resort

A report for the Casino Association of New Jersey says a proposed smoking ban at Atlantic City’s casinos could lead to the loss of 2,500 casino jobs.Pictured: A gambler smoking while playing a slot machine at the Ocean Casino Resort

Among other findings, it determined that smokers, who account for 21 per cent of Atlantic City gamblers, are worth more to casinos than non-smokers in that they tend to lose more money and spend more on non-gambling items.

Joe Lupo, president of the casino association and of Atlantic City’s Hard Rock casino, said Atlantic City ‘faces some very dire issues.’ 

He said casino employment and visitation to Atlantic City are both at 20-year lows, and in-person gambling revenue has yet to return to pre-COVID levels, down 5 per cent in 2021 compared to 2019.

‘Now is not the time to enact a smoking ban,’ he said, adding that doing so ‘could cause a devastating effect to the community and state.’

This Feb. 10, 2022 photo shows a gambler smoking while playing a slot machine at the Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City N.J. A report released Feb. 23, 2022 by the Casino Association of New Jersey says a proposed smoking ban at Atlantic City's casinos could lead to the loss of 2,500 casino jobs and almost 11% of the casinos' revenue

This Feb.10, 2022 photo shows a gambler smoking while playing a slot machine at the Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City N.J. A report released Feb. 23, 2022 by the Casino Association of New Jersey says a proposed smoking ban at Atlantic City’s casinos could lead to the loss of 2,500 casino jobs and almost 11% of the casinos’ revenue

Lupo said Atlantic City casino executives are to speak with the governor this week about their concerns.

Smoking is allowed on 25 per cent of the casino floor in Atlantic City.The casinos claim that banning it would send smokers fleeing to neighboring Pennsylvania, where many casinos allow smoking.

A group of Atlantic City casino workers, aided by national non-smoking groups, has been pushing for over a year for New Jersey to close the loophole in its public smoking law that allows it to continue in casinos; it is banned in most other indoor spaces.

They complain of developing respiratory ailments and other harm from breathing second-hand smoke, https://wscbiolo.id/ despite the millions invested by casinos in filters and air purifying technology.

Legislation to end casino smoking died in last year’s legislative session, but has been reintroduced this year, and has garnered bipartisan support, including from a former governor, Democratic state Sen. Richard Codey.

Atlantic City briefly banned smoking for four weeks in 2008, but dissatisfied with the results, quickly restored it to the current 25 per cent level.In the first week of the ban, casino winnings declined by 19.5 per cent, according to casino workers union officials and state regulators.

The report asserted that between 1,021 to 2,512 jobs could be lost in the first year of a smoking ban in Atlantic City.Spectrum used data from 2019 that found that each casino job was supported by $155,008 of gambling revenue.

They also interviewed casino executives, workers and customers, and anti-smoking advocacy groups, and studied the experience of other states that have banned casino smoking.

At the high end of its projections, the report says 10 per cent of Atlantic City’s casino workforce could lose their jobs if smoking is banned.

It also found that with a smoking ban, non-gambling revenue would fall by up to $93 million, or 6.5 per cent, and tax revenue would fall by as much as 44 per cent.

The report also acknowledged that some non-smoking patrons would be more likely to visit casinos if smoking was banned.But the report found that the extra business would not be enough to offset an overall decline in gambling revenue.

It does not expect every smoker to stop coming to Atlantic City’s casinos if smoking is banned. About 13 per cent of smokers would still visit casinos, according to the report, and they also have the option of gambling online.

But that would hurt the casinos: the report says casinos keep less than 10 per cent of online gambling revenue, with the rest going to online operators, tech partners and related costs.