With the economy crumbling and revenues plunging, the city may put off the Oct. 15 start of a ban on smoking in casinos to avoid further losses.
The ban, opposed by casino owners but supported by workers, was approved in April before Wall Street melted down. The City Council is scheduled Wednesday to consider a delay.
“Smoking is not healthy. Smoking kills people,” said Bob McDevitt, president of the city's largest casino workers union, Unite-Here Local 54. “So does job loss, unemployment and the threat of foreclosure. People will lose their ability to feed their families.”
But Jennifer Guillermain, an 18-year supervisor at Caesars Atlantic City, said many workers in the city's 11 casinos feel betrayed by a possible postponement. They will turn out in force at Wednesday night's meeting to try to persuade the council to keep the ban in place, she said.
“These greedy casino owners sit up in their smoke-free offices, and we're the ones dying for their bonuses,” Guillermain said. “Enough is enough.”
The new law allows casinos to set up enclosed, ventilated smoking lounges that would be unstaffed. But smoking would be banned on gambling floors. For the past year and a half, the casinos have operated under a partial ban that restricted smoking to no more than 25 percent of a casino floor.
Nearby, slots parlors in Pennsylvania have a partial smoking ban and Indian-run casinos in Connecticut have no restrictions on smoking.
City Councilman Marty Small acknowledged that many casino workers, particularly dealers and cocktail servers, are anxiously awaiting the start of the ban.
“But one of the things no one could have predicted when we passed this was the crisis in the economy in this country,” he said. “We have to balance the health of the casino workers with the health of the casinos themselves.”