Smoking in Atlantic City casinos a ‘kick in the teeth’ — hear from AC dealers
With another burst of momentum behind potentially putting an end to smoking inside Atlantic City casinos, an online video featuring current casino workers is making the rounds once again.
The video originally posted by More Perfect Union (scroll down to view the video) shines a spotlight on a few dealers who fear the potential impacts of being indoors next to active smokers on a regular basis — and another who may already be feeling the side effects.
"I've gotten a lung condition. My doctor said it could've been from being around secondhand cigarette smoke all the time," Angela Martinelli said.
"I can't imagine what my lungs actually look like. I'm almost scared to find out," said Pete Naccarelli, who's been dealing in Atlantic City since 1996.
Casinos are not included in the state's smoke-free air act that bans smoking indoors at public places and at beaches and public parks. Smoking is permitted on up to 20% of a casino's floor.
Like the one that died last year without a vote, a bill has been introduced this session to include casinos in New Jersey's smoke-free law, but this time with more bipartisan support. State Sen. Michael Testa, R-Cape May, on Monday said he'd be joining the bill as a co-sponsor. Fellow co-sponsors include Republican Vincent Polistina, and Democrats Patrick Diegnan, Teresa Ruiz, and Vin Gopal.
Sen. Joe Vitale, D-Middlesex, a primary sponsor of the legislation with Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Mercer, said he expects the bill to see some traction in the spring, according to New Jersey Monitor.
Casinos continue to oppose the proposed rule change.
"Banning smoking completely and permanently would have long-term financial implications for the industry and the region, placing Atlantic City casinos at a competitive disadvantage with Pennsylvania casinos where smoking is permitted," Joe Lupo, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey and of the Hard Rock casino, told the Associated Press. "A decline in our customer base would also cause economic hardship to a large portion of the 20,000 employees who rely on the tips and customer volume that our industry provides."
Gov. Phil Murphy does not typically comment on legislation that has not yet reached his desk, but he's been vocal about his support for a total smoking ban in Atlantic City's casinos.
"If legislation can get to my desk, that would allow us to do that, I will sign it," Murphy said Thursday on WBGO.
Smoking in Atlantic City's casinos was prohibited for about a year due to coronavirus concerns.
"When they brought the smoke back on the Fourth of July, it was almost like a personal kick in the teeth," dealer Lamont White said on the More Perfect Union video.
"I loved working in COVID protocols," added dealer Nicole Vitola. "It's so hard to deal with smoke in your face when everyone else in the state doesn't have to deal with it."
Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.