|Trenton, NJ— Bipartisan legislation to protect Atlantic City casino workers continues to gain support as Senator Sandra Cunningham today announced she has co-sponsored S264 to eliminate the casino smoking loophole. Cunningham is the 16th senator to co-sponsor the bill, which was recently endorsed by the main union representing Atlantic City casino dealers, the United Auto Workers (UAW).
“The health of all New Jerseyans should be our priority, which is why I strongly support S264 to protect the health of Atlantic City casino workers,” said Senator Cunningham. “By passing these bills, we can ensure that all workers in our state have the same protections from dangerous secondhand smoke.”
“We applaud Senator Cunningham for recognizing that all New Jersey workers deserve a safe work environment – and that no one should be left behind,” said Cynthia Hallett, president and CEO of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights. “This bill is more than ready for a hearing, and with a majority of the Senate Health Committee members already publicly supporting it, we know it will pass with flying colors.”
“We are grateful to Senator Cunningham for caring about our lives,” said Pete Naccarelli, co-leader of Casino Employees Against Smoking’s Effects (CEASE), which has organized thousands of AC casino workers since smoking returned in July 2021. “How many more cancer diagnoses, heart attacks and other health ailments can we withstand before the legislature decides this is important enough to advance?”
The primary sponsors of S264 are Health Committee Chair Joseph Vitale (D) and Senator Shirley Turner (D). The full list of 16 co-sponsors – consisting of 12 Democrats and 4 Republicans – can be viewed here.
The bill enjoys similarly significant and bipartisan support in the Assembly, where the primary sponsors are Assemblyman William Moen (D), Health Committee Chair Herb Conaway (D), and Deputy Speaker Paul Moriarty (D).
Governor Phil Murphy has repeatedly said he’d sign the legislation.
The union representing Atlantic City casino dealers, UAW, last month announced its strong support for eliminating the casino smoking loophole that threatens the health of their members and other casinos employees due to secondhand smoke exposure. UAW released a letter urging legislators to hold hearings on the bipartisan bills, S264 and A2151. “Our members include dealers who sit inches away from patrons who blow smoke directly into their face for eight hours a day, every single day. It is simply unacceptable knowing what we know about the dangers of secondhand smoke. It is unacceptable knowing that even brief exposure to secondhand smoke can be harmful to someone’s health. According to the CDC, secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals of which hundreds are toxic and at least 70 can cause cancer. No worker in the state of NJ should be forced to breathe cancer causing chemicals every single day.”
The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 152 also came out in support of the bills last month. The union represents thousands of retail, manufacturing and healthcare workers in South Jersey who depend on a strong South Jersey economy. “Our brothers and sisters deserve a smokefree work environment, period. Healthy casino workers will help the casinos succeed and fuel a thriving local economy – which benefits all of us here in New Jersey.”
CNBC aired a piece on this issue last week that highlighted the stakes for casino workers. “[Tammy] Brady is on medical leave, getting treatment for breast cancer. ‘I’m worried about going back to my job in a smoking environment,’ she told CNBC, tears streaming down her face.”
Undercutting a key argument from casinos about why they oppose protecting their employees from the known dangers of secondhand smoke, the Associated Press reported this month that New Jersey casinos generated more revenue in April from in-person gambling than they did before the pandemic in April 2019. Further, NJ Online Gambling reports that Atlantic City casinos this year posted the highest first-quarter profits since at least 2008. The Associated Press wrote that “Atlantic City’s casinos collectively saw their profitability increase in the first quarter of this year compared not only with a year earlier, but also to the pre-pandemic period.”