As we mark two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the greater Atlantic City region continues to feel the adverse economic impact from this unprecedented health crisis. As our community struggles to rebuild and recover, our priority must be to support and maintain a favorable economic environment for local businesses and employees. We must be focused on maintaining stability in the market, preserving and creating jobs, and supporting the local community during these uncertain times.
To that end, recent efforts to impose a permanent smoking ban on Atlantic City casinos should be halted. A smoking ban would have a negative impact on the casino industry, resulting in significant job losses and decline in revenues, which, in turn, would hurt local businesses and vendors that rely on the industry for their economic livelihood. We recognize the concerns of casino employees who support a smoking ban, but we also must keep in mind that thousands of employees and their families will be impacted by lost jobs if a ban is passed.
A permanent smoking ban would put Atlantic City at a competitive disadvantage with casinos in Pennsylvania and Connecticut where smoking is permitted. As we continue to rebuild and recover from the pandemic, Atlantic City deserves a level playing field. By imposing a smoking ban, we are simply driving visitors, businesses and jobs away from our region to neighboring states.
In addition, the success of online gaming has created a misperception about the current state of the Atlantic City casino industry. The truth is, employment and visitation are at a 20-year low. Land-based gaming revenues are down from 2019 and have not returned to pre-pandemic levels. As the numbers demonstrate, this is not the time to enact policy changes that could inflict yet another blow to an already struggling industry and the employees, families and businesses that it supports.
Read more Op-Eds from ROI-NJ:
- If timing is everything, let’s hit pause button on casino smoking ban
- Enough scare tactics — it’s time to get rid of smoking in casinos
Despite these recent challenges, Atlantic City remains the economic engine of not only South Jersey, but the entire state of New Jersey, and we must do all that we can to help the industry recover from this once in a lifetime pandemic. The casino industry has produced more jobs, investment and tax revenue than any other industry in Atlantic County over the past 40 years. I urge legislators to protect the jobs, tourism and revenue that fuel our local and regional economy and oppose any efforts to enact a smoking ban at Atlantic City casinos. The growth and vitality of our community depend on it.
Michael Chait is president of the Greater Atlantic City Chamber. Since 1914, the Greater Atlantic City Chamber is dedicated in creating a favorable economic climate with meaningful services for the business community. Together, we work to foster growth in the region’s economy by creating a better business climate and a higher quality of life.