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Bill Banning Smoking in Casinos Won’t Be Voted on Until Next Year

The sponsor of a bill that would ban smoking in Atlantic City casinos said the measure will be punted to the next legislative session after a new group of lawmakers are sworn in.

The bipartisan bill was scheduled to be voted on by the Senate’s health committee Thursday, but he said it will be pulled from consideration because it does not have enough support on the committee to advance it, said Sen. Joe Vitale (D-Middlesex).

“We’ll get there eventually,” Vitale said. “This will pass, and we’ll take it up in a new session with new members.”

The news was first reported by Politico New Jersey.

The bill’s supporters — including casino workers who have been fighting for the bill’s passage — vow to keep lobbying senators to back it. In a statement Wednesday, a group of those workers criticized lawmakers who have expressed support for the bill in the past but do not intend to vote for it.

“Our lives depend on them doing the right thing and keeping their word,” Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects said in a statement.

New Jersey’s 2006 law banning smoking in most indoor places exempted casinos, where smoking is allowed on 25% of casino floors. Bills that would include casinos in the ban have been introduced since 2006 but have never been voted on by the full Legislature.

Lawmakers held several hearings on the bill this year, but the measure hasn’t seen a vote by committees in either chamber. A planned vote by the Senate’s health committee in November was canceled after some Democratic lawmakers pulled their support.

Sen. Vince Polistina, a Republican who represents Atlantic City, said he’d support the bill if it came to the Senate floor for a vote, but he also intends to introduce a compromise bill during the next legislative session “to get us to the point where we eliminate smoking on the casino floor.” He noted that several lawmakers have pulled their support from the current bill.

“The reality is, we don’t have the support in the Legislature to get it over the finish line,” he said. “At the end of the day, this is headed to a compromise anyway.”

Casino owners and business groups claim a smoking ban would result in fewer customers and harm Atlantic City’s economy. They have suggested amendments to the bill, like enclosed smoking rooms.

Vitale said he has not seen any amendments to the legislation and is not interested in any.

The bill has gained some national attention. Shawn Fain, the international president of the United Auto Workers union, which represents workers at three Atlantic City casinos, last week wrote to lawmakers urging them to support casino workers who are suffering from the toxic harms of secondhand smoke, according to the Associated Press.

Casino workers also called on Senate President Nicholas Scutari to bring the measure to the floor of the Senate for an expedited vote. The bill is sponsored by 23 members of the Senate — more than enough for it to win passage. Gov. Phil Murphy has said he would sign the bill if it passes.

The Senate is expected to hold its next session Dec. 21.

Source: New Jersey Monitor