No smoking in Atlantic City casinos

Atlantic City – Gamblers on the floors of Atlantic City casinos will soon have to give up at least one vice: smoking.

Ending a battle that lasted more than a year, the City Council voted 9-0 Wednesday to end the last major loophole to a tough statewide ban on smoking in public buildings that had conspicuously exempted gambling halls.

But patrons still will be able to light up in unstaffed smoking lounges away from the table games and slot machines if the 11 individual casinos choose to build them. The ban takes effect Oct. 15.

Casino workers — many wearing T-shirts with the slogan “Nobody deserves to work in an ashtray” — burst into applause when the votes were counted and chanted, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

“The employees of Atlantic City’s casinos have hit a jackpot of their own tonight,” said Dr. Arnold M. Baskies, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society in New Jersey and New York.

“Hardworking casino employees have been keeping Atlantic City’s multibillion-dollar casino industry on a roll but have been gambling with their lives for far too long.”

Marybeth Litchholt, a dealer for 21 years at Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, said it’s about time that casino workers’ health is as valued as those of other workers in New Jersey.

“Because of cigarette smoke, I have sinus problems,” she said. “There are times when I’m working in the smoking section when I’m short of breath. You can just feel it in your lungs. My clothes stink.”

More than two dozen states nationwide regulate smoking inside casinos, eight ban smoking altogether inside the gambling halls, and two others will impose a total ban starting in 2009, according to Karen Blumenfeld, policy director of the New Jersey Group Against Smoking Pollution.