Casino workers pushing for smoking ban face opposition who fear it will hurt business
A plan to ban smoking inside of New Jersey’s casinos is making its way through the state Legislature.
Supporters of the bill say that it is all about the health of casino workers, but there is still plenty of opposition.
“For them it’s a money issue – strict money issue. To us, it’s a health issue,” says casino dealer Pete Naccarelli.
Naccarelli is part of C.E.A.S.E. - Casino Employees Against Smoking’s Effects. He says he and his colleagues have spent the past year fighting and working to get smoking on the casino floor banned for good. He says that the bill to do so is now out of committee in the state Senate.
“We’re basically going door to door of the politicians trying to just have meetings with them. Just like this, over Zoom or over the phone and explain to them what we have to deal with,” Naccarelli says.
The Greater Atlantic City Chamber made its opinion on the matter known on Thursday. The group issued a statement that said in part, “A smoking ban would have a negative impact on the casino industry, resulting in significant job losses, decline in revenues, which in turn would hurt local businesses and vendors that rely on the industry for their economic livelihood."
This opinion led Chamber member Robert Zlotnick with Atlantic Prevention Resources to leave.
"I know they've taken a stand on issues before, and I've never had a problem with it. But this is something that is very near and dear to my heart, and it is also part of our mission as what we do. Our mission is the prevention of the harm caused by substances, alcohol, tobacco and drugs." Zlotnick says.
Naccarelli says his group now has support from City Hall and all legislators who represent Atlantic City. He says he hopes their voices will continue to be heard.
"I know people with cancer. I know people with emphysema. We know people who have passed and people with oxygen tanks. We know pregnant women who have to deal with smoke being blown in their face. It's absurd. The money shouldn't matter one bit,” he says.
C.E.A.S.E. says the group is hoping the state Senate bill will go back up for a vote in April. Gov. Phil Murphy has said that if the bill reaches his desk, he will sign it.