Gamblers were barred from lighting up Wednesday when a blanket smoking ban went into effect over the objections of the casino industry.
The ban is due to last at least 12 days but could then be put on hold for a year if the mayor signs a measure delaying it.
For Gary Noa, a dealer who started his shift at Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino about 4 a.m., it was “one of the greatest nights I've seen in the casino business.”
“I was able to go to work and breathe fresh air,” he said.
The ban went into effect at the stroke of midnight – a little too abruptly for Helen Hanley of Cranston, R.I. She was gambling at Resorts Atlantic City, one of two casinos in the city that did not set up smoking lounges.
“I was sitting in the smoking section, had the ashtray, and a cleaning guy just came and took it,” she said. “I said, ‘Excuse me, can I have that?'”
Hanley said the employee simply said, “‘No.'”
In April, the City Council passed a law banning smoking from the entire casino floor but allowed casinos to set up enclosed smoking lounges away from slot machines and table games.
Owners of the city's 11 casinos recently pushed for a year's delay, noting the crashing economy and plunging revenues. The council agreed, but procedural delays prevented it from approving the deadline change in time to stop the ban from going into effect Wednesday.
Trump Entertainment Resorts CEO Mark Juliano said Asian gamblers appeared to abandon games at the Taj Mahal Casino Resort once they couldn't light up.
“The Asian pits are empty,” he said at 3 p.m. “I mean empty. There's 15 games in the Asian pit and by this time of day, they're usually all open. We have two games open right now. They're from New York, and now they're going to go to Connecticut, where they can smoke.”