With no immediate compromise in sight, a group of casino employees from Atlantic City, known as CEASE (Casinos Employees Against Smoking Effects), traveled to Las Vegas this week to deliver their message to ban smoking in all casinos.
CEASE held a press conference at the Palazzo Hotel, in the same complex as this week’s annual Global Gaming Expo. The Las Vegas appearance adds Nevada to the list of states where the group is trying to spread its message. It is encouraging similar conversations in Pennsylvania, has made efforts in Indiana, and recently added a chapter in Rhode Island.
In August, CEASE members were keynote speakers at the 2022 Indiana Commercial Tobacco Control Partner X-Change in Indianapolis. In attendance were health advocates and tobacco prevention resource organizations.
However, Indiana is “having a little bit of a harder time trying to get people to speak up,” according to Nicole Vitola, who spoke with NJGamblingSites.
Vitola is a co-leader of CEASE and a table dealer at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City.
The keynote address in Indianapolis was designed to get as many casino workers there interested in caring about second-hand smoke, Vitola said. She’d like to see them “fighting for themselves.”
She says that CEASE received a great response from conference attendees.
They were eager to learn how to contact, or get in touch with, casino workers.
Some Casinos Go Smoke-Free Voluntarily
The American Nonsmokers’ Rights (ANR) Foundation compiles a list of gaming properties in the US with 100% smoke-free indoor air policies. There are already close to 200 properties on the list.
Vitola says that she’s had people in Michigan reach out to CEASE recently. Pandemic restrictions had temporarily resulted in a smoking ban at casinos in the state, but now it’s at the establishment’s discretion.
For a long time, they didn’t smoke in their casinos after COVID. But as they return the smoking to the tables, you get more people who are really in desperate need to get it off the tables and away from their face and out of the casinos.
The ANR list shows 16 Michigan casinos with self-imposed no-smoking policies. That includes all three Detroit commercial casinos. Only nine tribal casinos in Michigan currently allow indoor smoking:
- Kewadin Casinos (five locations)
- Ojibwa Casinos (two locations)
- Little River Casino Resort
- Soaring Eagle Bingo and Slots
Likewise, the highly successful Parx and Rivers Casino in Philadelphia have also implemented anti-smoking policies of their own accord post-COVID.
That’s smart, says Vitola.
Just shows you that they can go non-smoking and make a profit. A good profit.
The numbers are even higher – over 1000 smoke-free gaming locations nationwide, according to ANR – if one includes other types of properties, like off-track betting shops and card rooms.
Online Casinos May Benefit if Smokers Stay Home
If CEASE gets its way, New Jersey’s legal online casinos might be incidental beneficiaries. Online gambling could get a boost if a ban leads some smokers to play from home, where they can smoke freely.
The same holds true for other online gambling states like Michigan and Pennsylvania, plus those where online casinos could soon be legalized, like New York and Indiana.
“These kids can gamble in the parking lot. They don’t need to come to your casino anymore,” said William Raynor. The 71-year-old Somers Point resident made the remark during the public comments section of a New Jersey Casino Control Commission meeting on Wednesday.
He went on to say:
They don’t wanna gamble and smoke. They do it because they can. How dare you say smoking is legal in a casino. Smokers want to be around smokers. Give them a room like Vegas.
Even the smokers’ room suggestion isn’t good enough for CEASE, though. Vitola says the only way to go is 100% smoke-free in casinos.
If you have smoking sections you’re still gonna have those workers that have to go in and service that area. Even if it’s a smoking room with the door closed, as soon as that door opens you know where the smokes gonna escape. No ventilation system can protect us against the effects of second-hand smoke.
Will CEASE Crash Atlantic City’s Birthday Party?
This controversy takes place as an important anniversary approaches for New Jersey. Resorts Casino was the first casino to open in Atlantic City on May 26, 1978.
Forty-five years later, the NJ Casino Control Commission, along with the Division of Gaming Enforcement, are preparing to celebrate the anniversary of legalized gambling in the state on Dec. 8. They plan to host a symposium at Stockton University in Galloway.
When asked if CEASE would attend the event, Vitola responded, “Stay tuned.”