|Atlantic City, NJ – Last night, News 12 New Jersey highlighted Atlantic City casino workers calling on Governor Murphy to prioritize eliminating the casino smoking loophole. Currently, frontline casino workers are forced to choose between their health and a paycheck.
KEY POINT: “We are just really urging [Murphy] to get this done and get this done once and for all so that we can enjoy a smoke-free work environment,” says casino dealer Beverly Perna-Quinn. “We’re just trying to pay bills. We’re just trying to get our children through school and college, and we have to deal with that because you don’t want to risk your job.”
News 12 New Jersey: Casino Workers Urge Gov. Murphy to Support Bills Banning Smoking on Casino Floor
January 25, 2022
A group of casino workers is calling on Gov. Phil Murphy to support bills that would ban smoking inside of Atlantic City’s casinos.
“You wouldn’t understand the feeling you get when being on a game and someone walks up and you see them have a cigarette in their hand and you’re just begging, ‘Please don’t sit at my game,’” says Pete Naccarelli, co-founder of Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects (CEASE).
Naccarelli is also a game dealer. He and his supporters say that enough is enough when it comes to smoking in their place of work. They say that 2022 needs to be the year that smoking is banned on the casino floor.
A bill to ban the practice was introduced in the state Senate earlier this month.
“We need movement, so we are trying to reach out one by one to each senator, each legislator, to have them cosponsor and understand and kind of help move forward,” says CEASE co-founder Nicole Vitola.
Smoking was banned inside casinos for about 12 months during the pandemic.
“It was great. I never called out a day, and I never had a mental health issue on the game because I knew I was protected,” Vitola says.
The governor has said several times that if a bill to ban smoking reached his desk, he would sign it. But the workers say that it is not enough.
“Many of us did vote for him, and we knew that that was his stand on this and we are just really urging him to get this done and get this done once and for all so that we can enjoy a smoke-free work environment,” says casino dealer Beverly Perna-Quinn.
But the workers say they are begging the legislators to put their health first.
“We’re just trying to pay bills. We’re just trying to get our children through school and college, and we have to deal with that because you don’t want to risk your job,” says Perna-Quinn.
Earlier this month, on the first full day of the new legislative session in Trenton, six senators re-introduced a bill to eliminate the casino smoking loophole in state law. S264 (previously S1878) “eliminates [the] smoking ban exemption for casinos and simulcasting facilities,” protecting casino workers from exposure to dangerous secondhand smoke.
Companion legislation in the Assembly will be introduced in the coming days. Assembly Health Committee Chair Herb Conaway said last month that “I’d like to get it done,” Conaway, a physician and the Burlington County health director, said. “We have a number of employees who, as a condition of their work, are exposed to this carcinogen.” He reiterated his support last week: “It’s time to ban smoking inside Atlantic City casinos like other workplaces in New Jersey. We have a number of employees who, as a condition of their work, are exposed to this. Nobody should be forced to decide between going to work and their health.”
Play NJ named the casino loophole as one of five stories to watch in 2022: “The most likely [bill] to see swift action is a total smoking ban inside Atlantic City casinos. The gambling parlors are among the state’s last exemptions for allowing indoor smoking. COVID-19 makes this a public health issue and lawmakers will not want to hear about lost revenue for casinos.”
During his December 20 press conference, Governor Phil Murphy once again voiced his support for eliminating the casino smoking loophole in state law that exposes casino workers to secondhand smoke at their workplaces. “If a bill came to my desk that did ban [smoking in casinos], I would sign it,” said Murphy.
A new video published last month, “A Loophole in NJ Law Is Killing Casino Workers,” highlights the urgency of the casino workers’ fight to close the casino loophole.
American Gaming Association President and CEO Bill Miller has said that casinos that have gone smokefree have done so “without detrimental effect” and that the decision “hasn’t led to a decrease in business.”
More and more casinos nationwide are going smokefree, including Park MGM on the Las Vegas strip. At least 150 sovereign Tribal gaming venues have implemented 100% smokefree policies during COVID-19, nearly half of all states require commercial casinos to be smokefree indoors, and nearly 1,100 gaming properties do not permit smoking indoors. In November, Navajo Nation adopted legislation to make its four casinos permanently smokefree indoors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in March that smokefree casino policies implemented over the last year have been a “silver lining” of the pandemic.