Atlantic City Casinos Bail on Smoking Discussion at Last Minute
Industry Couldn’t Find a Replacement to Publicly Discuss Smokefree Casino Policies, Prompting East Coast Gaming Congress to Cancel Panel
Discussion of Timely Issue was Set for Sept. 22 After Governor Murphy’s Keynote Address
September 13, 2022
Atlantic City, NJ – The head of the Casino Association of New Jersey (CANJ) has abruptly backed out of participating in a public forum on indoor smoking at the East Coast Gaming Congress (ECGC) on September 22, prompting conference organizers to cancel the panel. CANJ’s Mark Giannantonio was set to participate with Eric Hausler, CEO of Greenwood Racing (PARX Casino) and Cynthia Hallett, president and CEO of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights (ANR) at 2:55pm next Thursday. The industry’s two biggest annual gatherings, ECGC and Global Gaming Expo (G2E) – which takes place next month in Las Vegas – will both lack any discussion of ending indoor smoking, a curious decision as many in the industry embrace smokefree indoor air policies across the country.
Statement from Cynthia Hallett, president and CEO, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights:
“It’s remarkably telling that Atlantic City casinos couldn’t find one person to publicly defend their position in favor of indoor smoking. Instead of engaging in a serious, fact-based discussion about indoor smoking, casino executives are avoiding the issue. They know that they cannot win on the facts – even their economic arguments have been thoroughly rebutted – so they are avoiding a public discussion.
“It’s also illogical that conference organizers chose to cancel the panel because they couldn’t find someone to defend indoor smoking. They would never have canceled a forum on responsible gaming because they couldn’t find an opposing voice, or on sports betting because they couldn’t find panelists who oppose expansion.
“The hypocrisy of some in the industry on this issue has never been clearer. A few months ago, Hard Rock Chairman Jim Allen said ‘success means being better listeners to employees.’ Casino workers have literally been marching in the streets to end indoor smoking and protect their health at their workplace, yet casino executives are deaf to workers' pleas. And now they’re trying to stifle any discussion of the issue.
“If the Casino Association of New Jersey thinks their backpedaling on this discussion will make the issue go away, they are wrong. We are disappointed that this conversation will be missing from the formal conference program, but rest assured – the presence of casino workers who have been fighting for their health will be felt next week.”
With lawmakers returning to Trenton this month, casino workers and advocates for smokefree casinos are making clear that no worker should be subjected to breathing secondhand smoke. A2151 and S264, bills to close the casino smoking loophole and get rid of smoking inside Atlantic City casinos have earned extraordinary bipartisan support in both chambers of the state house. The legislation is cosponsored by more than half of the legislature, including the entire Atlantic City delegation, a majority of the Assembly and Senate health committees, and a majority of South Jersey Assembly Democrats.
The United Auto Workers (UAW), the union representing Atlantic City casino dealers, urged legislative leaders to advance bills to close the smoking loophole. UFCW Local 152, which represents 16,000 retail, manufacturing and healthcare workers in South Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware, also announced their support for eliminating the casino smoking loophole. A recent report by Las Vegas-based C3 Gaming found that casinos without indoor smoking outperform their smoking counterparts, and that Atlantic City would not lose gamblers to the handful of remaining eastern Pennsylvania casinos that allow indoor smoking.
This month, as the gaming industry recognizes Responsible Gaming Education Month, the leading organization dealing with gambling addiction is warning legislators that continuing to allow indoor smoking at Atlantic City casinos will only continue to encourage gambling addiction, but that passing bipartisan bills, S264 and A2151, to close the casino smoking loophole would help to address this concern.
ABOUT AMERICANS FOR NONSMOKERS' RIGHTS
Americans for Nonsmoker’s Rights (ANR) is a member-supported, non-profit advocacy group that has been working for 45 years, since 1976, to protect everyone’s right to breathe nontoxic air in workplaces and public places, from offices and airplanes to restaurants, bars, and casinos. ANR has continuously shined a light on the tobacco industry’s interference with sound and life-saving public health measures and successfully protected 61% of the population with local or statewide smokefree workplace, restaurant, and bar laws. ANR aims to close gaps in smokefree protections for workers in all workplaces, including bars, music venues, casinos, and hotels. For more information, please visit https://no-smoke.org/ and https://smokefreecasinos.org/.