38. 5 Atlantic City Casinos Going Smoke-Free (New Jersey)
September 12, 2007
Smokers may soon be out of luck: At least five of Atlantic City's casinos are making gambling areas smoke-free.
The move comes in response to a law passed in February requiring gambling floors to be at least 75 percent smoke-free. The city's 11 casinos must tell the state by Saturday how they plan to comply with the law.
Harrah's Entertainment Inc., which owns four casinos here — Harrah's Atlantic City, the Showboat Casino-Hotel, Bally's Atlantic City and Caesars Atlantic City — said Tuesday it will spend $7 million to open smoking lounges ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 square feet apiece. Tropicana Casino and Resort has a similar plan.
That would leave the gambling floor totally smoke-free; patrons would have to enter one of the lounges in order to light up.
"We are committed to improving the work environment for our employees," said J. Carlos Tolosa, Harrah's eastern division president. "I believe this smoke-free ordinance provides our industry with a fair transitional guideline for better workplace conditions."
Resorts Atlantic City and the Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort plan to hedge their bets by creating a smoking lounge at each casino, along with one slots area and one table games area at each casino that will be set aside for smokers.
"We have customers who are very vocal on both sides," said Tony Rodio, regional president for Resorts Atlantic City and the Atlantic City Hilton. "A number of customers are very frustrated, who say that if they can't smoke, they won't come here. I also have customers who tell me if it was 100 percent smoke-free, I'd come here all the time."
The City Council in Atlantic City had been set to ban smoking in all the casinos earlier this year but relented under fierce pressure from the industry, which said it feared losing 20 percent of its revenue and thousands of jobs if it was banned. The law requires physical barriers to prevent smoke from bothering customers and employees in non-smoking areas.
Some casinos have not yet said definitively what they plan to do.
Tom Hickey, a spokesman for Trump Entertainment Resorts, said enclosed smoking areas will be built at each of the company's three Atlantic City casinos — Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort and Trump Marina Hotel Casino. But he would not say whether they would be gambling areas or smoking lounges where gambling is not offered.
The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa had no immediate comment on its plans Tuesday evening.
Michele Holcomb, a spokeswoman for the American Cancer Society, said she is encouraged by the trend away from smoky gambling pits.
"People want smoke-free entertainment venues," she said. "You go to a casino to gamble and dine. You don't go somewhere to smoke."