Monday, April 16, 2007


I have nothing personal against New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, I even voted for him. However, I can't seem to get beyond the irony of 'ole "Numbnuts" getting into his car accident and that out of four passengers--the only one who got injured seriously was Corzine, the one NOT wearing his safety belt. Therefore, one out of four, or for those of you into percentages...25% in terms of TOO a high enough number.

Speaking of one-of-four things coming from the State; the partial ban (25%) on smoking inside casinos went into effect on April 15th. Just like one person out of four not wearing a seat-belt is too many, the concession of 25% of the gaming space is too high.
For most front-line casino workers, exposure to smoke is the worst part of the job. In addition to the proven and re-proven health risks associated with second-hand smoke, the smoke is a firm barrier between the customer and the worker. The main reasons are; smoke physically hurts, it irritates the eyes and effects breathing. It also effects concentration and hinders the staff's number-one responsibility, game protection.

For those of you who aren't aware of actual issue, New Jersey outlawed smoking in ALL public buildings...yet the geniuses seemed to see it fit to exempt a small handful of buildings...casinos. After exhaustive protest, local politicians in Atlantic City pushed for a local ordinance to extinguish smoking...and they won.

After some delay tactics by the casinos, the big day finally came a few months ago. Then with the sweet smell of clean air in our grasps, there was some "eleventh hour" manipulation. Somehow, the powers-that-be were waylaid by special interest. The casinos, maintained that they were "certain" other gambling venues that allowed smoking would have an unfair economic advantage on Atlantic City.
Casino's came up with randomly high and self-serving numbers to claim that this town would lose 20% of its income. They then parlayed that notion by dangling the inevitability of vast employee lay-offs to off-set their losses. So the powers-that-be kowtowed to them. Once again, might over right (money over health) wins out.

It should be noted that on April 15th a couple of pro-active casinos bucked the trend by disregarding the 25% ban. These casinos set-up enclosed smoking lounges, just a short dash off the casino floor, to accommodate smokers. They were able to visualize the hypocrisy and live up to the assertion that they provide a clean and safe environment for their staff. (Nearly all the casinos state or imply this message in their Mission Statement).

But for all the other casinos its business as usual. The gaming halls are only serving themselves by setting aside 25% of the casino floor-space for smokers because the other 75% includes a lot of "less-traveled" areas. Therefore, in the case of table game employees, some pits are ALL smoking and only restrict it on individual customer request. In other pits, smoking is only allowed on the end games. However, when the pit is reduced (late at night) to two or three tables, these games would all be smoking. Unless this is addressed, the smoking ban will have succeeded in INCREASING the risk from second hand smoke.

Unfortunately, it gets worse because casinos are unwilling to "advertise" that the building (with a 25% exemption of casino space) is now smoke-free. Therefore smokers still smoke!
Smokers are limited to a narrow corridor plus gaming tables that touch this space. But the reality is, smokers come and go as they please. When asked not to smoke, they are often encouraged to smoke somewhere else (even though the vacant space they are now smoking in, is a restricted area).
In an article a few days ago in the Atlantic City Press, the reporter claimed that the ban was working and that no fines had been levied. I haven't seen a security guard stop anyone from smoking. I'm guessing this responsibility hasn't been added their job description. Beyond that, it would be too "costly" for the regulators to keep a division of smoke police so the violators overwhelmingly go unchecked and that's why nobody has been fined

Hopefully these quirks, in this utterly stupid law will be ironed-out soon because the spirit of the law is reduce the risk of casino worker health problems. Anyone who can't see that only has to look at the dealer from the Tropicana, a non-smoker, who from second-hand smoke developed lung cancer. When he became a vocal advocate of smoke-free casinos, he was fired.

Casinos have until the summer to build enclosed pits to house 25% of the table games to accommodate smokers. But these segregated spaces will probably never get built. Casinos have already found out that few people will voluntarily work in these rooms and that the amount of recompense needed to change these people's minds would be staggering...not to mention the cost of building these rooms to "cage-in" their customers. Me personally, I'll believe the smoke-free casino environment when I see it because the casino legal departments have the know-how and resources to tweak the issues, force delays and dilute policies to their benefit.

If justice was to be really served, the State would have enacted a 100% ban for one year. Then assessed the financial impact on the city and then, only if a great hardship occurred that threatened jobs would the 25% separate gaming rooms, be used.
At a time when casinos feel threatened by dealer unionization, you'd think this issue would have been laid to rest long ago.
Yet several casinos have gone smoke-free. These casinos are not profit-at-all-cost mega-corporation whores. They understand their greater responsibility to its front-line employees and community. More importantly, they recognize the contrived idea of other gaming venues having an unfair advantage over them and allow the competition right next door to smoke.


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