Smoking ban advocate
fired from casino job

Mar 12, 2007 10:49 PM

A veteran casino worker who is suing the Tropicana Casino and Resort, claiming a quarter-century of secondhand smoke gave him lung cancer, has been fired.

Vincent Rennich, 49, has been among the most vocal advocates of a total smoking ban in Atlantic City’s 11 casinos. He has become for many the face of the casino anti-smoking movement, and has sought to publicize working conditions on the casino floors.

"They threw me under the bus," Rennich said last week, a day after being informed by a supervisor that he was among the latest wave of Tropicana employees being let go. "How can you fire a guy with lung cancer who’s suing you? Maybe they don’t realize the ramifications. Or maybe they’re heartless. Or maybe all of the above."

The Tropicana said it would not comment on Rennich’s dismissal or the other layoffs. However, a casino official who asked not to be identified because the matter involved personnel issues denied that Rennich was singled out.

"I honestly do not believe he was singled out on any level," said the official. "People have lost their jobs simply due to a restructuring of the company. He is one of many."

Since late January, the Tropicana has laid off more than 200 people in Atlantic City, the official said.

Rennich, a table games supervisor, said he was told on a Sunday night that he was being terminated.

"They said they are reducing staff, and based on my performance evaluation, which is pretty good, by the way, I was being let go," he said.

He grabbed his coat, said goodbye to friends and co-workers and left the building.

Rennich is suing the Tropicana’s parent corporation, claiming it failed to protect him and others from the dangers of secondhand smoke. The suit, filed last July and pending in state Superior Court, named Aztar Corp., which was acquired by Columbia Entertainment, the gambling arm of Fort Mitchell, Ky.-based hotel operator Columbia Sussex Corp.

He says he has never smoked. He had a third of his right lung removed in September 2005 and must see a doctor every three months to make sure the cancer does not reappear.

Rennich said his health insurance coverage will only last for 30 days. After that, he must pay $800 a month to continue it on his own.

A limited smoking ban is due to take effect April 15 unless an effort currently under way in the state legislature to ban all smoking in casinos is adopted by then.