No Smoking On NJ Beaches May Leave Casinos Like Ocean Resort As Last Refuge

New Jersey’s smoking law bans smoking in most public places. If Gov. Phil Murphy signs a law on his desk, casinos may be one of the last bastions for smokers.

The law in question, S 2534, would ban smoking at all public beaches and parks in the state of New Jersey. The law is a revision of the Smoke-Free Act of 2006.

The Assembly and Senate both passed the bill in May 2018. However, it is unknown when Murphy will sign the bill. In fact, he could choose to veto or put the bill in a drawer, if he chooses.

The state government is still shaking off the effects of a threatened government shutdown. The necessary wheeling and dealing disrupted much of the typical lawmaking and delayed Murphy’s decision on several bills.

This revision would not be the first to the law. In 2010, an amendment added electronic cigarettes to the list of banned items.

Casinos are one of the few exempted properties for smoking

Should the new law receive Murphy’s signature, smoking tourists may find themselves increasingly chased into the casinos.

Part of the language of the original bill allows casinos, horse tracks, cigar bars, tobacco shops, and private areas to permit patrons to light up.

However, the law specifically says that “smoking may, although need not, be permitted.” In other words, a casino or racetrack could legally not allow smoking at their facilities.

This language is what permitted the now-defunct Revel to politely ask patrons to refrain from smoking. Unfortunately, the decision ended up creating ill-will and irritation in its customer base.

Gambling and smoking tend to go together — most descriptions of historical gambling halls reference the smoke-filled rooms. As a result, within months of its grand opening, there were already indications that casino management was considering some manner of revocation for the rule.

Revel management certainly had noble intentions. However, the no-smoking rule became emblematic of the property’s ills. Revel’s focus on richer, non-smoking patrons drove potential customers into the arms of other casinos.

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Ocean Resort Casino is trying to learn from Revel’s past mistakes

So, it likely came as no surprise that Ocean Resort Casino, the renovated casino that opened in Revel’s old building on June 28, sought to avoid its predecessor’s mistakes.

Owner Bruce Deifik announced a wide variety of changes at Ocean Resort, both in terms of physical and philosophical.

Chief among those changes was to permit visitors to the property to light up as they see fit. That permission aligned with Deifik’s focus on a more middle-class patron for his casino.

Some of the other changes include the construction of a buffet and the arrival of Atlantic City’s first TopGolf location. These types of activities were always avoided under Revel ownership.

A casino without a buffet is no friend of mine.

About the Author

Bart Shirley

Bart Shirley is a writer who covers the NJ online gambling industry as well as a poker player from Houston, Texas. He has a master's degree in business administration from Texas Christian University and a degree in English from Texas A&M. In his spare time, Bart teaches math and business at Memorial High School in Houston.