Workers File Lawsuit to Overturn Atlantic City Casino Smoking Exemption

After years of unsuccessful attempts to persuade lawmakers to ban smoking in Atlantic City casinos, workers have taken a new approach: filing a lawsuit to challenge a law that exempts casinos from indoor smoking bans. The lawsuit argues that the exemption for casinos violates the principle of equal protection under the law and seeks to have it acknowledged as unconstitutional.

The Legal Action Escalates an Ongoing Issue

The United Auto Workers (UAW), representing workers at Bally’s, Caesars, and Tropicana casinos, joined by a group of casino workers opposed to smoking in gambling halls, filed a lawsuit in state Superior Court challenging New Jersey’s indoor clean air law. This law, enacted 18 years ago, prohibits smoking in most indoor workplaces but makes an exception for casinos.

At a rally outside the courthouse where the lawsuit was filed, UAW president Shawn Fain noted that such drastic action was only necessary because of the industry’s unwillingness to address the concerns of Atlantic City casino workers regarding their work safety as they must regularly contend with the proven dangers of second-hand smoking.

This legislation was supposed to protect everyone from the dangers of second-hand smoke. But somehow, our casino workers have been asked to roll the dice.

Shawn Fain, UAW president

The issue of smoking in casinos has sparked controversy not only in Atlantic City but also in other states where workers have raised concerns about second-hand smoke. Similar campaigns are underway in Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Kansas, and Virginia. Proponents of the ban argue that banning smoking would not affect revenues but would tremendously improve casino staff’s quality of life.

Casinos Remain Opposed to a Smoking Ban

Recent revenue reports showing a decline in in-person visits to Atlantic City casinos have raised further alarm among workers and union leaders. They argue that a smoking ban is necessary to protect the health of workers and patrons alike and would constitute a vital step towards resolving the challenges facing the resort city.

State Senator John Burzichelli introduced a bill earlier this year that would address some of the concerns of workers and the casino industry. However, the proposed legislation heavily favored casinos, causing workers pushing for a complete ban to reject this proposal, insisting on improved measures to protect their health and safety.

The Casino Association of New Jersey opposes a smoking ban, citing concerns about its impact on competitiveness with neighboring states. However, workers are determined to push for change through legal action. The plight for safer working conditions has resonated across New Jersey, winning public support. While the lawsuit’s chances remain unclear, the UAW will explore every option to protect the casino worker community.