No Atlantic City casinos to be totally smoke-free

Atlantic City, New Jersey (AP) – No Atlantic City casino will go totally smoke-free this fall to comply with a tough new smoking law, the casinos said Tuesday.

Ten casinos said they are planning to build the enclosed, non-gambling smoking lounges permitted under the law, and the eleventh said it is leaning that way.

The only casino that has not explicitly said it will build smoking lounges is the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. But the president of one of the two companies that jointly own it said the casino will not go totally smoke-free.

„We’re working on plans to accommodate our guests‘ smoking,“ Boyd Gaming president Keith Smith said Tuesday on a conference call to discuss earnings. „We think there will be some impact. I don’t think it will be a significant change to what you see today.“

Company spokesman Rob Stillwell said afterward, „We made no mention as to how we might accommodate our smoking guests, and we have not completed our plans, so it would be premature to identify any one specific strategy.“

A law passed by the City Council last week prohibits smoking on the casino floor as of Oct. 15 and gives casinos the option to build enclosed, ventilated smoking lounges away from table games and slot machines.

Mayor Scott Evans plans to sign it on Wednesday.

„People’s health should not be made subservient to financial considerations,“ he said.

Casino workers and anti-smoking groups pushed hard for the law, which replaces a compromise measure worked out last year permitting smoking to continue on no more than 25 percent of the casino floor. They were disheartened that no casino chose to ban smoking altogether.

„While we may be disappointed, the casinos will be protecting their employees from deadly secondhand smoke, which is a great step in the right direction,“ said Peter Slocum, vice president of advocacy for the American Cancer Society’s Eastern Division.

„But I’m betting this isn’t the end of the story,“ he said. „The undeniable trend is toward smoke-free environments. As new casinos come into town we expect that both new and existing facilities will realize the health and revenue value of smoke-free entertainment and we will begin to see a shift toward completely 100 percent smoke-free buildings — ones that don’t include smoking lounges.“

Despite calls from company chairman Donald Trump for all 11 casinos to jointly sue to block the smoking ban, Trump Entertainment Resorts will open smoking lounges at all three of its casinos, CEO Mark Juliano said.

Donald Trump said some gamblers view smoking as an integral part of their fun, and have complained about the current 75-25 ban.

„I’ve had customers come up to me and tell me it doesn’t even feel like they’re in a casino anymore,“ Trump said in an interview last week.

The Tropicana Casino and Resort plans to have as many as five smoking lounges set up near its gambling floor by the time the new law takes effect, president Mark Giannantonio said.

„We certainly hope it will please our customers while complying with the law,“ he said.