Atlantic City Casino Workers Sue State of New Jersey for Unconstitutional Exemption that Jeopardizes Their Health

UAW and CEASE File Lawsuit Against New Jersey to Eliminate Casino Smoking Loophole

Congressman Andy Kim Stands with Casino Workers in Fight to Protect Their Health By Closing Casino Smoking Loophole

April 5, 2024

Trenton, NJ – Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects (CEASE) and the United Auto Workers (UAW), which represents scores of Atlantic City casino workers, filed a lawsuit in Trenton today against the State of New Jersey over the exemption in the Smoke-Free Air Act that excludes tens of thousands of casino workers from protections from secondhand smoke at their workplaces. Congressman Andy Kim joined them at the press conference to voice his support.  

The lawsuit, seeks immediate injunctive relief, filed by Nancy Erika Smith, Esq., of Montclair’s Smith Mullin. It was filed just days before the anniversary of the Smoke-Free Air Act taking effect on April 15, 2006 – nearly two decades ago. Today’s lawsuit argues that the current exemption for casino workers from the Smoke-Free Air Act violates the New Jersey State Constitution on three grounds. “The State of Jersey decided nearly 20 years ago that secondhand smoke was dangerous and that virtually every worker must be protected from exposure to it – except for us,” said Pete Naccarelli, Nicole Vitola, and Lamont White, co-founders and co-leaders of CEASE. “The State of New Jersey has failed us, and we’re tired of seeing co-workers become sick or even die from a litany of diseases that could have been prevented. It’s shameful and it cannot continue. We are pursuing every angle to save our lives and the lives of thousands of our fellow casino workers in South Jersey. While we proceed with this lawsuit, our message to legislators in Trenton remains the same: pass the clean bill that solves this problem, once and for all.”   

“You’re not asking for the moon—you’re asking to be treated like everybody else,” said Congressman Kim in remarks to workers at the press conference. “If I don’t want people smoking in the United States Capitol when I’m working, you don’t need to have people smoking where you’re working.”   The Senate Health Committee passed S1493 in January.   

UAW President Shawn Fain, offered remarks virtually at today’s rally.     

A recent poll found that 74% of New Jerseyans and Philadelphians would be more likely to visit Atlantic City casinos if they were to operate 100% smokefree indoors.   A report published by Las Vegas-based C3 Gaming found that casinos without indoor smoking outperform their smoking counterparts. “Data from multiple jurisdictions clearly indicates that banning smoking no longer causes a dramatic drop in gaming revenue,” wrote C3 Gaming. “In fact, non-smoking properties appear to be performing better than their counterparts that continue to allow smoking.”   Legislation to close the casino smoking loophole has broad support from a diverse coalition of organizations including the National Council on Problem Gambling, UFCW Local 152, American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, American Heart Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.   The United Auto Workers (UAW), the only labor union representing Atlantic City casino dealers, strongly supports the legislation and has repeatedly called on New Jersey lawmakers to protect the health of their members. UAW represents thousands of workers in Atlantic City casinos, including dealers at Caesars, Bally’s, and Tropicana, who are the most affected workers in a casino, as their job requires them to spend their entire shift an arm’s length from smokers.   UAW has also rejected the Philip Morris Smoking Rooms proposed by some in the industry.    “The UAW will not compromise on the health of any worker. We reject any amendment in the legislation that would allow workers to ‘volunteer’ to work in smoking rooms. No one should have to risk their health for a paycheck,” wrote UAW President Shawn Fain in a recent letter to lawmakers.

Casino Employees Against Smoking (Harmful) Effects (CEASE) is a group of thousands of casino dealers and other frontline gaming workers that formed after indoor smoking returned on July 4, 2021 and is fighting to permanently remove smoking from our workplaces. For more information, visit