Smoking ban news to many at casinos

Atlantic City – If you go into a bar, restaurant or store, New Jersey’s week-old ban on indoor smoking is perfectly clear – you’re not allowed to do it.

But make a visit to one of Atlantic City’s gaming halls, and the rule seems to be as murky as the air on the casino floor.

The new law allows smoking only on the gaming floor, among the slot machines and table games. Lighting up in the lobby, in the hallways and other nongaming areas is forbidden.

But a visit Saturday night to several casinos found that many people are ignorant of this distinction.

Keith Luers, of Franklinville, leaned against a railing on the second level of The Quarter at the Tropicana Casino and Resort, puffing on a cigarette as he chatted with a friend. He said he wasn’t aware of the new smoking ban.

„If they don’t want people smoking anywhere but the (casino) floor, there shouldn’t be ashtrays out here,“ Luers said.

Indeed, ashtrays — many of them filled with butts — were scattered all over The Quarter. There was nary a „no smoking“ sign in sight.

Luers couldn’t help but add his opinion.

„I think it stinks,“ he said. „I’ll finish this one.“

In the course of a half-hour visit to The Quarter, a reporter saw about a dozen people with lit tobacco. About half the time, an employee told them to put it out.

It wasn’t only the Tropicana. People were seen smoking in the nongaming areas of three other casinos as well. „No smoking“ signs were few and far between.

All the smokers said they were ignorant of the law.

„I didn’t know it was only on the casino floor“ where smoking is allowed, said Venus Cast, of Bradley Beach, as she took a smoke break at the edge of the fountain on the first level of The Quarter. She had heard Atlantic City was exempt from the smoking ban.

„Of course I don’t know,“ said a woman from Baltimore, having a drink at the bar at the Tropicana. „I thought in a casino, you could smoke anywhere,“ she added as she stubbed out her cigarette.

„I was actually told the casinos aren’t going to be affected by this law,“ said Patricia Kelly of Hazlet, smoking with two friends at The Quarter. „There’s an ashtray here and plenty of cigarettes in here, so I figured we could smoke.“

Bally’s Atlantic City has more „no smoking“ signs in nongaming areas than most casinos, but people still passed through the lobby with lit cigarettes in hand. One ashtray, with a „no-smoking area“ sign placed on top, had 15 butts in it.

Eugene Bevilacqua, of Maple Shade, walking through the Caesars Atlantic City lobby with a cigarette, said he first heard of the ban when a reporter told him.

„They have ashtrays all along here,“ he said as he went to put out his cigarette.

„OK, I didn’t know that,“ said a Pennsylvania woman, who declined to give her name, smoking in Caesars‘ lobby. „I will know for next time. I’ll put it out.“

Two men from Ohio chatted in front of the guest-services desk in the lobby of the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino. One puffed on a cigarette.

„I thought in the casino you could smoke,“ said the man, who didn’t give his name, as an attendant told him to put it out.

Several casino spokespeople declined to comment for this story.

But when the ban went into effect, representatives of several gaming halls said their properties intended to comply with the law.