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Casino smoking ban goes into affect in Atlantic City

Oct 15, 2008 11:30 PM

by GT Staff | As if a slumping economy and increasing competition isn’t enough, Atlantic City casinos are now going to have to deal with a full ban on smoking -- at least for the next 12 days.

But on Wednesday, the City Council voted 5-4 to delay the smoking ban for at least a year. It is said the decision was made so as to give the casino industry a chance to recover from the current economic crisis. So the current smoking ban could be tabled if the mayor signs the measure delaying it.

As of midnight, all Atlantic City casinos are no longer allowing smoking on their casino floors. Instead, tobacco lovers have to do their smoking in unstaffed lounges, or step outside.

Most casino operators are predicting sharp drop-offs in gaming revenue, which has already been impacted by the depressed economy, high gas prices and competition from new casinos in nearby Pennsylvania and New York.

This year’s total gross gaming revenue is projected to be less than the amount generated in 2007 – the first time since casinos were approved that revenues have declined from the previous year.

Industry experts predict the fall-off in revenue due to the smoking ban could range from 10 percent to 30 percent.

Tourism officials were saying it may not be as bad as many are predicting. The change could actually attract new customers (non smokers), and stimulate business in other areas, such as convention, entertainment and restaurants.

"I think Atlantic City is still growing and I think the more diverse activities and amenities we offer seems to be the trick to doing better," said Jeffrey Vasser, president of Atlantic City’s Convention and Visitor Authority.

Vasser said a visitor survey found that the non-smoking issue was third in importance behind safety/security and customer service.

How long this decision will last is still in question. The ban is set to end on Oct. 27 if Mayor Scott Evans signs the new measure. He hasn't indicated his decision in the matter.

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