New Jersey Republicans seeking state office have taken positions opposing ongoing tobacco smoking inside Atlantic City casinos.
Assemblyman Vince Polistina (R-Egg Harbor) and Don Guardian, the former Republican mayor of Atlantic City, say they both oppose allowing gamblers to light up inside casinos. Indoor casino smoking resumed July 4 following the extinguishment of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s (D) temporary ban because of COVID-19.
I think the fact that casino revenue during the smoking ban was up over 10 percent in 2021, as compared to the same time in 2019, we can see the ban did not hurt business,” Guardian opined this week. “With health as the top priority as we come out of the pandemic, we need to realize our casino employees and guests are placed at risk each time they enter a casino. They need our help.”
Guardian, a one-term Atlantic City mayor who lost his reelection bid to the now-disgraced Frank Gilliam, is running to oust Assemblyman John Armato (D-Buena) in the 2nd Legislative District. The district covers Atlantic County and its municipalities, including Atlantic City.
GOP Casino Position
Polistina is running to win the state Senate seat left unoccupied by former Sen. Chris Brown (R-Ventnor City) after he decided earlier this year to serve the Murphy administration as a “senior advisor to Atlantic City affairs.”
Polistina also believes the state’s Smokefree Air Act loophole afforded to casinos needs to end.
“Casino workers and guests were able to experience what it would be like to be inside a smoke-free casino,” said Polistina. “While the COVID-19 pandemic will be a thing of the past at some point, the risks associated with second-hand smoke are very real, and not going anywhere unless we do something to change that.
As someone who has suffered a personal loss from cancer, this issue could not hit more close to home for me,” Polistina explained.
New Jersey Deputy Attorney General Claire Swift, also running for Armato’s seat, opposes casino smoking, too.
“A smoking ban within casino properties would certainly encourage families to consider Atlantic City, once again, a family destination,” she said. Swift added that a smoke-free Atlantic City casino market would make the destination more desirable for families.
Tobacco Giant Interjects
Atlantic City is predominantly a Democratic town. Guardian is the casino city’s lone Republican mayor since 1990. 2nd District Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo (D-Northfield) has been reelected four times, and Armato twice.
Philip Morris, the largest tobacco manufacturer in the world, is concerned with smoke-free casinos becoming a bigger trend than it already is. And outside Las Vegas, Atlantic City is the most important casino market in the United States.
According to New Jersey campaign finance records, Philip Morris is donating to state lawmakers and political candidates at rates not seen in more than a decade. Philip Morris recently contributed $36,500 to New Jersey Senate and Assembly Democrats, and $22,000 to the GOP leadership committees.
The Democratic candidates have yet to take such strong anti-smoking stances. Murphy, however, said recently that he would be “open-minded” to the discussion.
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