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Smoke Signals in Atlantic City

17/11/2008
A test-run smoking ban expired on Sunday, and there was a collective wheeze of relief from smokers as they’ll be able to huff away while gambling for at least another year.

In April, the AC City Council put forth a complete smoking ban on all 11 gambling floors. Most customers and casino staff applauded the move, but casino operators and some gamblers were opposed, saying it would force customers away from the casinos, just as the ban did in bingo parlors in the UK.

Of course, the financial collapse skewed any study on how the smoking ban, which took effect on October 15, affected overall business. So in an effort to realign any revenue, the council changed its tune and agreed to repeal the ban for at least another year. But because the about-face came at the last minute, it couldn’t halt the ban going into effect in October. In a first, ashtrays were confiscated and "no smoking" signs went up everywhere.

For many employees, it was a breath of fresh air without having to be subjected to people blowing smoke in their faces all shift long. But for as many supporters, smoking advocates were unified in saying they’d take their business elsewhere if the ban took root. So within a year, depending on the state of the economy, the smoking situation will be visited again and see if the ban would be put into effect.

Arthur Kaler, a veteran dealer at Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, felt a sense of betrayal by the council in their reversal of the ban.

"If we are here next year to revisit the smoking ban and I have fallen victim to lung cancer, will each of you look my family in the eyes?" he asked council members. "Tell them how brave I was to fight secondhand smoke every day to save the economy of New Jersey. A ballpark or street could be dedicated in my honor, and my family can be bestowed a plaque."

But Mark Juliano, CEO of Trump Entertainment Resorts, said a complete smoking ban would tighten the economic stranglehold in Atlantic City.

"It's just one more negative factor the industry can't absorb right now," he commented.
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