Limited smoking in casinos OK, 47 percent in New Jersey poll say

Atlantic City – New Jersey residents remain fundamentally split over whether or not people should be allowed to smoke in the resort’s casinos, a new survey finds.

Nearly two-fifths of the people polled by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind public opinion research center said smoking should be banned outright in gaming halls. But nearly half thought it merely should be limited to certain areas.

Fewer than 10 percent said smokers should be able to smoke wherever they want, while another 5 percent were uncertain.

The center conducted its telephone poll of 841 adult state residents between Jan. 5 and 11. The poll has a 3.5 percent margin of error.

The poll found that older, wealthier and better-educated state residents were more inclined to support a total smoking ban, while younger, less- educated and lower-income people supported a partial ban.

Total bans were backed by 59 percent of the people earning more than USD 150,000, 47 percent of people with graduate-school degrees and 45 percent of people older than 60.

But pollsters found 65 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 30 supported a partial ban, as did 52 percent of people with high school educations and 52 percent of people earning USD 50,000 per year and less.

Half of those who said they have visited Atlantic City in the past year or are likely to visit this year supported a partial casino smoking ban, compared with 45 percent of nonvisitors in favor of such smoking restrictions, the poll found.

Whether one was a liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican also made little difference. Results among people with different ideologies or political affiliations also were within the margin of error.

Peter Woolley, the poll’s director, said in a release from the center that „people with more education and higher incomes are less likely to smoke and more likely to take into account the risks of smoking and secondhand smoke.“ He said, „Smoking is itself a kind of gamble, so maybe it belongs in casinos.“

During the past several years, state and city officials have vacillated between allowing and banning smoking in the gaming halls.

Initially excluded from 2005 state anti-smoking legislation, casinos faced smoking bans on as much as 75 percent of their gaming floors in 2006.

That partial ban enacted by the city grew into a complete ban for a month in the fall. But city leaders reverted to the partial ban in the face of complaints that gamblers were being driven to other states during the severe economic downturn.

In the rows of slot machines at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, only gold-colored signs mounted on the payout lights distinguish smoking from non-smoking zones.

Underneath one smoking sign, Larry Couture, 52, smoked next to a „Scatter Magic“ nickel slot machine Tuesday afternoon.

Couture, of Bloomington, Minn., said „we wouldn’t be coming to Atlantic City if there was no smoking, and you can quote me on that.“

He liked the idea of separate areas, in part because he said many gamblers are also smokers.

„I think you have to make a place for non-smokers to be comfortable,“ he said. „They are the majority. I’m not one of those libertarians that say I can smoke anywhere I want.“

On the opposite side of the casino floor, nonsmoker Helen France waited in a bank of slots near the main entrance. Like Couture, she said there is room for everybody. But she said she did not want to be near a person who was smoking.

France, 55, of Montross, Va., said she believes smokers should be allowed to smoke, even after her father, she said, looked for a cigarette after doctors removed a cancerous part of his larynx.

France did not think it was a very good idea for him to continue smoking, but that was his right. Others who know the hazards should be able to do what they wanted, she said.
„I think that if someone wants to kill themselves, they should be allowed to,“ she said.