A.C. smoking ban in question

October 8, 2008 4:05:51 PM PDT
City leaders are willing to bet that delaying the smoking ban may help casinos avoid another financial hit.Currently 25-percent of the casino floors are designated smoking areas, with the full smoking ban set to go into effect October 15. However, with the economy being what it is, several casinos are asking that the total ban be delayed for a year.

The UAW, representing Atlantic City dealers, is among the groups that want the full smoking ban to take effect a week from today.

"When you have to stay there for 8 hours and not be able to move, it's not very comfortable at all to deal with and just going home, your clothes stink, you reek," Al Welenc, casino dealer, said.

Dealers aren't alone; the American Heart Association has also been a vocal proponent of smoke-free casinos.

"To delay that is just another year of the staff having to deal with the dangers of secondhand smoke. We're going to be testifying to protect the cardiovascular health of the employees here," Bill Thompson of the American Heart Association said.

Atlantic City casinos, already hard hit by competition from casinos in Pennsylvania and New York, are now losing big in the stock market. For example, shares of Boyd Gaming, owner of Borgata, are down 84-percent over the last 52 weeks. Trump is off 90-percent.

The industry says a total smoking ban will only add to the loss of gamblers, and in turn, revenues and jobs. Gambling and smoking go hand in hand, some say and some smokers we talked to agree.

"I have friends, who are very big gamblers, who will not come here anymore. They are absolutely finished with this place as of October 15," Paul Rodway of Long Island, New York said.

For its part, Harrah's, which has 4 Atlantic City casinos, says it's ready to comply and is taking a neutral stand on tonight's vote.

Among those in favor of the delay is "Unite Here," the largest union representing casino workers. The union president is quoted as saying smoking is not healthy, it kills people, but so does job loss, unemployment, and foreclosures.

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