Judge Considers Smoking Ban in Atlantic City Casinos Amid Worker Health Concerns

A group of Atlantic City casino workers, represented by the United Auto Workers, are suing to ban smoking in the city's nine casinos, citing the toxic effects of secondhand smoke on their health, while the state and casino industry argue that a ban would lead to significant economic losses. The lawsuit challenges New Jersey's indoor smoking law, which exempts casinos, and could set a precedent for worker health and safety in other industries and states." This description focuses on the primary topic of the article (the lawsuit to ban smoking in Atlantic City casinos), the main entities involved (casino workers, United Auto Workers, state, and casino industry), the context (Atlantic City casinos and New Jersey's indoor smoking law), and the significant actions and implications (potential ban on smoking, economic losses, and precedent for worker health and safety). The description also provides objective and relevant details that will help an AI generate an accurate visual representation of the article's content, such as the setting of Atlantic City casinos and the presence of casino workers and smoking areas.

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Nitish Verma
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Judge Considers Smoking Ban in Atlantic City Casinos Amid Worker Health Concerns

Judge Considers Smoking Ban in Atlantic City Casinos Amid Worker Health Concerns

A group of Atlantic City casino workers has asked a Superior Court Judge, Patrick Bartels, to ban smoking in the gambling halls, citing the toxic effects of working in a poisonous atmosphere. The workers, represented by the United Auto Workers, argue that secondhand smoke has caused illnesses such as bronchitis, asthma, and cancer.

Why this matters: This case has significant implications for worker health and safety, as it challenges the exception made for casinos in New Jersey's indoor smoking law. A ruling in favor of the workers could set a precedent for similar cases in other industries and states, ultimately leading to a safer work environment for thousands of employees.

Currently, smoking is allowed on 25% of the casino floor in Atlantic City, but the areas are not contiguous, resulting in secondhand smoke being present throughout the casino floor. The lawsuit, filed last month, seeks to overturn New Jersey's indoor smoking law, which bans smoking in virtually every workplace except casinos.

Nancy Erika Smith, the attorney representing the workers, argues that the law is unfair and puts workers' health at risk. "The purpose of the act is to protect workers from sickness and death. It is not to put money in the casinos' pockets," Smith stated.

The state, represented by Deputy Attorney General Robert McGuire, expressed concerns about the potential economic impact of a smoking ban, citing the loss of revenue from the Casino Revenue Fund, which generates $526 million annually for programs for senior citizens and the disabled. McGuire argued, "Citizens have the freedom to pursue safety and happiness, but nowhere does the government guarantee those things to them as a right."

The casino industry, represented by the Casino Association of New Jersey, argues that a smoking ban would lead to economic declines, citing a 19.8% decline in casino revenue in 2008 when a smoking ban was briefly implemented. However, smoking opponents dispute this claim, referencing a study that shows casinos that ended smoking did better financially without it.

Workers who want to keep the current smoking policy argue that they understand the risks of their job and accept them. However, anti-smoking workers contend that they should not have to choose between their health and their job. Smith responded to the state's arguments, saying, "The argument that people should be poisoned so that casinos can do well and generate more state tax revenue is repugnant and shocking."

Judge Bartels did not issue a ruling on Monday but said he aims to do so as quickly as possible. A ruling banning smoking in the nine casinos would be a significant change for the city's gambling industry and its workers. The anti-smoking workers have been campaigning to end smoking in Atlantic City's casinos for four years, initially relying on political efforts to change the law before turning to the courts.

Key Takeaways

  • Atlantic City casino workers sue to ban smoking, citing health risks.
  • New Jersey's indoor smoking law exempts casinos, putting workers at risk.
  • Workers argue secondhand smoke causes illnesses like bronchitis, asthma, and cancer.
  • State and casino industry argue a smoking ban would hurt revenue and economy.
  • Judge to rule on lawsuit, potentially setting a precedent for worker health.