Scheduled AC Casino Smoking Ban Debate Extinguished After Panelist Backs Out

The officials of the East Coast Gaming Conference have released an updated version of the schedule for the industry event that had been long awaited. One of the most outstanding changes in the new schedule is that there is a missing panel from the list. It had been earlier published in the media that “Gaming Revenues Going Up In Smoke?” would be debated so as to get a lasting solution to the issue of banning smoking from all nine major casinos in Atlantic City.

The panelists that were supposed to host the discussion include an executive from Parx Casino, Eric Hausler; president and CEO of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, Cynthia Hallett; and the Resorts AC CEO, Mark Giannantonio, who had been named as the chief of the Casino Association of New Jersey in August. Parx was in the news last year after it enforced a smoking ban which has been maintained to date. 

According to claims that were made by Hallett early in the week, it appears that Giannantonio had “abruptly backed out” and will not be appearing on the panel which was to debate at the Hard Rock in Atlantic City. This claim is yet to be substantiated since no organizer of the East Coast Gaming Congress has come out to address it. Speaking to the Associated Press on the matter, Giannantonio mentioned that the Casino Association of New Jersey had acted in transparency on their position. They are stuck to the view that imposing a smoking ban in Atlantic City casinos would adversely affect the gambling industry. 

Although he did not expressly declare his stand on the issue of a permanent ban, Giannantonio has asked that more time be allowed for the formulation and implementation of a lasting solution. There are serious issues, especially on employee matters that must be addressed so that the move does not jeopardize jobs for small gains. 

Anyone in defense of casino smoking?

Atlantic City has gotten to the point where not a single person is willing to stand up in support of indoor smoking. In a statement by Hallett, casino executives have chosen to totally avoid the issue instead of engaging in a fact-based discussion pertaining to indoor smoking. Casino representatives must be aware that their argument will not win, considering that their argument on economic sabotage has been seriously rebutted in the past. It is important that all stakeholders involved agree on fundamental issues instead of avoiding it. 

The reason for canceling the panel was that no one was willing to speak in favor of indoor smoking. This move has been termed as quite illogical by industry critics as quite illogical because the standoff on the ban right now is because of the section of stakeholders that support indoor smoking. Hallett added that it was unnecessary to do away with a panel just because there was no negative voice in it. He pointed out the discussions on responsible gaming and NJ sports betting stating that the entire industry spoke with a single voice at the point of regulation. 

It is hypocritical on the part of some industry players to boycott such an important topic just because their opinion was not represented. To think that Rock Chairman Jim Allen had a few months ago defined success as being good listeners to employees, the conduct of AC casino at this time is wanting. 

There have been peaceful protests by casino workers who have for a long time been taking to the streets in effort to end indoor smoking. Their argument has been that smoking in enclosed spaces has exposed them to serious health complications in their line of work. It was important that the panel sat down to address this issue instead of turning a deaf ear to the cries of the workers. Even worse is the fact that casino executives have gone mute on the matter and are acting behind the scenes to stifle any discussion. 

Hallett has lashed out at those that appear to be blocking the scheduled panel discussions from taking place by calling them out. It is a pity that the people will miss this part of the conference program but that will not make the plight of the workers go away. He assures the Casino Association of New Jersey that the presence of casino employees who have been lobbying for their health will surely be felt in the coming week.During the Global Gaming Expo (also known as the G2E), some casino workers from Atlantic City conducted a press conference which they used to voice their concerns regarding the health effects of inhaling second-hand smoke. 

Momentum of the Smoking Ban

After a break of two months, the legislative assembly of New Jersey managed to return to work in the past week. Many expected that the smoking ban would be on the agenda for the Health Committee but it is not. Bill A2151 was aimed at adding casino operators to the list of businesses that had banned indoor smoking. 

It is a surprise that this bill is missing considering that the legislation had been co-sponsored by over 50% of the members. Top on the list of delegates is the entire Atlantic City-area representatives, the majority of the members in the senate and state health committees, and a majority of Assembly Democrats from South Jersey. 

After the upheaval that was experienced after the Covid-19 pandemic, comparing the performance of casinos has been a challenge. It is even harder to compare revenue between casinos where smoking has been banned and those that are yet to. 3 months ago, C3 Gaming based in Las Vegas published an independent report that questioned opposition of the smoking ban by traditional casinos. 


Due to the statistical evidence that a smoking ban does not significantly impact revenue, the ongoing tussle on passing/rejecting a related bill is unnecessary. As a matter of fact, it appears that casinos that do not allow indoor smoking are generally posing better results than their counterparts that are still permitting patrons to be engulfed in smoke fumes within their premises.

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