New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney’s Defeat Could Hit Atlantic City Casino Smoking

New Jersey’s much closer than expected gubernatorial race grabbed the headlines this week. That pushed another high-profile Election Day outcome significantly into the shadows.

Stephen Sweeney (D), the longest-serving state Senate president in New Jersey history, was agitated by Republican Edward Durr, 58, a truck chauffeur who spent $153 on his campaign. Durr garnered 52% of the District’s 3 votes. 

However, anti-smoking proponents in Atlantic City are speaking out on the impact Sweeney’s (D) nearly unimaginable loss could have on its goal of prohibiting tobacco smoking inside casinos.

For more than a decade, Sweeney, 62, has been one of the most influential people in New Jersey. He has been the New Jersey Senate president since 2010 and the Democrats’ chief party leader in the Trenton capital since 2008.

Sweeney represents the state’s 3rd legislative District, which includes all or sections of the southern counties of Cumberland, Salem, and Gloucester. He has long been supportive of Atlantic City’s gaming industry.

He was involved in coming up with the 2016 payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) program that allowed the casinos to jointly pay at least $120 million yearly to the state. The bill was about Atlantic City casinos challenging their facility tax assessments since the economy was unraveling at the time and led to the closure of five casinos between 2014 and 2016.

Sweeney has been backing allowing Atlantic City casinos to continue giving out up to 25% of their gaming space for indoor smoking. His Election Day defeat means the industry will lose one of its greatest proponents early next year.

Lame-duck period

Casino Employees Against Smoking’s Effects (CEASE) states it anticipates working with Sweeney before leaving Trenton. Senate Bill 1878 has been floating around the Trenton capital since February 2020. However, the legislation, which would close the casino smoking loophole, has failed to acquire any meaningful traction.

“We ask Senator Sweeney to help us. We need action urgently. Please put our health first by passing S1878 legislation to close the casino loophole in the lame-duck session. Governor Murphy has already said he will sign it. We will not rest until we are no longer forced to choose between our health and a paycheck,” stated a CEASE release.

The Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights (ANR) shared that view.

“Senator Sweeney has been a major obstacle for closing the casino loophole. But we hope we can work with him during the upcoming lame-duck session to send the bill to Governor Murphy’s desk, which the governor said he would sign. Casino workers cannot wait any longer, and they should not be forced to choose between their health and paycheck.” Cynthia Hallett, ANR CEO and President told

Sweeney history

COVID-19 led New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (D) to prohibit indoor casino smoking via an official order temporarily. But that order expired during the summer.

Anti-smoking proponents claim that solid business experienced by the nine resorts during the smoking ban shows that indoor tobacco authorization is not vital to the well-being of the gaming industry. Sweeney has often claimed that it is considering supporting the Casino Association of New Jersey (CANJ). It argues that going entirely nonsmoking would put Atlantic City casinos at a competitive disadvantage among neighboring casinos that allow smoking.

Casinos in Delaware are entirely smoke-free. However, casinos in nearby Pennsylvania are not.

Recently, CANJ acquired a new president following the resignation of Ocean Casino CEO Terry Glebocki. Hard Rock AC President Joe Lupo was declared the new representative of the trade organization this week. has asked for comment from Lupo as to whether he may consider easing CANJ’s strong advocacy of casino smoking.

Last Updated on by Ryan

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