NJ Casino Union and AG Lobby to Dismiss Anti-Smoking Lawsuit

Atlantic City, NJ – Unions representing casino workers as well as the state’s Attorney General are urging the judge to dismiss the anti-smoking lawsuit that was filed by unions that are opposed to the exemption of casinos from the Anti-Smoking Law.

Local 54 of the Unite Here union stated in a filing in the state Superior Court that if the smoking ban is approved on the main casinos, a third of the 10,000 workers would be “at risk of losing their jobs and the means to support their families”. Local 54 represents hotel workers, beverage servers, baggage handlers, public area cleaners, and other employees at the nine casinos.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Matthew Platkin stated that the state’s indoor smoking law “does not deny any group of people equal protection under the law and does not infringe on any purported constitutional right to safety.”

Platkin followed up for the dismissal of the lawsuit which was filed by United Auto Workers, a union that represents dealers at the Bally’s, Caesars and Tropicana casinos a month earlier.

Further Reactions from the Two Sides

Nancy Erika Smith, the lawyer who filed the lawsuit, reacted incredulously to the request by Local 54. She noted that she has never seen a union fight against the health and safety of their members,

“Luckily, Unite’s economic arguments, while false, have absolutely no relevance to the constitutional question at hand.”

Donna DeCaprio, president of Local 54, stood firm with their group’s stand of dismissing the lawsuit and to look for a compromise, since the aforementioned casinos still provide its workers with a good means to provide for their families,

“We support the health and safety of our members, and believe that improvements to the current work environment must be made… A balance needs to be reached that will both protect worker health and preserve good jobs,” DeCaprio said.

DeCaprio also noted that a total smoking ban would be “catastrophic” for Atlantic City, since between 50 to 72% of all gambling revenue won from in-person gamblers comes from smoking sections.  

Local 54’s court filing noted that back in 2008, after the City Council of Atlantic City imposed a short-lived total smoking ban, casino revenues fell by 19.8%, within the first week. The sudden fall in revenue led to the enactment of the current 25% smoking area on the casino floors.

However, members from Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects (CEASE) have noted that Local 54 might have vested interest in the continuation of the smoking ban exemption for casinos.

Nicole Vitola, co-founder of CEASE, stated in a press release that Local 54 has ties to Big Tobacco:

“Who knew Local 54 and the Casino Association of New Jersey were the exact same organization? They cite the same misleading ‘study’ – which is based on data from nearly 20 years ago, is irrelevant in today’s economy, and was paid for by the casinos themselves to try to scare legislators.

Instead of fighting for the health and safety of workers, Local 54 is battling in a court of law to allow casinos to keep poisoning their members with toxic second-hand smoke. What world are we living in? Local 54 leadership is dramatically out of touch with most of its members, who agree with us that it’s time to protect our lives by ending indoor smoking. No other worker is as directly affected as us, the table games dealers.”

What is the Current State of Anti-Smoking Bans Across Other States?

Anti-smoking bans on brick-and-mortar casinos are not just confined to Atlantic City. Across other US states workers have expressed concern about secondhand smoke. These states include Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Kansas and Virginia.

Among the aforementioned states, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania have legalized online casinos and gambling, while Kansas and Virginia have yet to allow online casinos within their jurisdictions.

Last Updated on by jonathan r

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