Atlantic City Casino Workers Want A Smoking Ban | EUROtoday

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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. ― It’s an low season Thursday evening on the Borgata on line casino, and Pete Naccarelli is having a fantastic run on the $15 blackjack desk. Only Naccarelli isn’t one of many gamblers. He’s the vendor slinging playing cards to them. What makes him so fortunate tonight? None of the gamers at his desk occurs to be smoking.

“All it takes is one,” Naccarelli says on a brief break from the blackjack pit.

Case in level: Naccarelli’s co-worker is dealing to 2 people who smoke just some tables over. One man has the courtesy to maintain his cigarette off the desk and turns his again as he exhales. But the opposite holds his Marlboro Light beside his playing cards in order that the smoke drifts into the vendor’s eyes. To the participant’s left, perched on an in any other case empty chair, is an ashtray holding his cigar. Ash is strewn all around the seat.

Another participant takes a break, lights a cig and flips the ashes right into a trash can off to the facet of the blackjack pit. Naccarelli says it is a no-no.

“You’re supposed to actively be playing a game,” he says, citing the smoking guidelines.

Pete Naccarelli has been in the casino industry for 27 years. He says dealing to a table full of smokers can be "torture."
Pete Naccarelli has been within the on line casino {industry} for 27 years. He says dealing to a desk stuffed with people who smoke will be “torture.”

Welcome to Atlantic City, the place on line casino operators and their statehouse allies nonetheless cling to a smoking ban carve-out for on line casino flooring whilst governments more and more stamp smoking out of public life. The metropolis’s slot machines and card tables are nearly the one indoor frequent areas left to gentle up within the Garden State ― a gross injustice, Naccarelli says, to the hundreds of staff who deal playing cards, serve drinks and supervise video games within the Monopoly metropolis.

“You can’t smoke in parks, on beaches… but you can smoke directly in my face,” the 46-year-old says. “I can’t turn or move. We have chips, millions of dollars of chips in front of us here. We can’t turn our head. We have to just stand there and eat it. I mean, it’s just ― it’s torture.”

Casino operators have pushed back against the idea of a smoking ban, claiming they would lose revenue to casinos in Pennsylvania.
Casino operators have pushed again in opposition to the thought of a smoking ban, claiming they might lose income to casinos in Pennsylvania.

Naccarelli has been dealing for 27 years, nearly all of it amid secondhand smoke, which analysis reveals may cause coronary heart illness, lung most cancers and different sicknesses. The smoke is difficult for him to flee, bodily and mentally. It leaches into his uniform, coming residence with him when his shift ends at 4 a.m. It makes it more durable to get well from colds and the flu. He generally finds himself hoping a smoker can have a nasty run simply so that they’ll stand up and go away his desk.

Casinos in New Jersey and different states have been combating smoking bans for years, claiming they might result in misplaced income and power them to chop jobs. Their success has been combined: 20 states now forbid smoking of their playing venues, based on the nonprofit American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation. In New Jersey, the place smoking was outlawed in bars, eating places and different public venues in 2006, on line casino operators can nonetheless permit it on 25% of the gaming ground.

A woman smokes while playing slots at the former Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City in 2007. The City Council barred smoking the following year but quickly reversed the ban. Today casinos are allowed to have smoking on 25% of the game floor.
A lady smokes whereas taking part in slots on the former Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City in 2007. The City Council barred smoking the next 12 months however shortly reversed the ban. Today casinos are allowed to have smoking on 25% of the sport ground.

Mel Evans/Associated Press

That means three-quarters of the ground is meant to be smoke-free. But the smoking zones are usually unfold out with no bodily boundaries between them and the nonsmoking areas and no apparent logic to the place they begin and finish. Two gamers on slot machines would possibly sit with their backs to 1 one other just some ft aside, one permitted to gentle up, the opposite not. Cocktail servers cross out and in of smoking areas as they ferry drinks whereas sellers are shuffled between smoking and nonsmoking tables all through their shifts.

“We tell the smoke not to drift,” Naccarelli jokes, “but unfortunately it doesn’t listen.”

Legislators in Trenton, the state capital, got here near passing a ban in December. But lobbying on the proposal was fierce, even splitting labor unions that symbolize several types of on line casino staff. The invoice narrowly failed to get out of a state Senate committee after shedding assist, infuriating sellers who had hoped for a celebration.

“We can’t turn our head. We have to just stand there and eat it. I mean, it’s just – it’s torture.”

– Dealer Pete Naccarelli

But the pro-smoking foyer might have lastly discovered its match in Naccarelli and a few of his fellow Borgata sellers. They’ve fashioned a genuinely grassroots coalition, rallying sellers from completely different casinos, shaming industry-aligned legislators and quick changing into seasoned political operators. With the New Jersey Legislature firstly of a brand new session, they hope a prohibition is lastly at hand.

“It’s become a fight for our lives,” Naccarelli says. “We’re scared, you know?”

The United Auto Workers, which represents dealers at the Caesars Atlantic City Hotel and Casino, has come out in support of a smoking ban.
The United Auto Workers, which represents sellers on the Caesars Atlantic City Hotel and Casino, has come out in assist of a smoking ban.

‘They Came To Gamble’

Atlantic City’s sellers obtained a style of contemporary air early within the pandemic. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed an emergency order in June 2020 that banned smoking in casinos as a result of it will require eradicating masks, the primary time the flooring went totally smoke-free. But Murphy signed an order the next 12 months that ended the general public well being emergency led to by the pandemic — and, with it, the smoking ban.

Naccarelli’s former carpool mate, fellow Borgata vendor Nicole Vitola, couldn’t abdomen the thought of returning to a smoky desk. Having labored in casinos since 1996, Vitola at all times hated the publicity to secondhand smoke ― a lot in order that she had requested her supervisors, pre-COVID, if she may put on a masks whereas working. The request was denied, Vitola says, as a result of they insisted on seeing her face on the desk for safety causes.

With smoking set to return in the summertime of 2021, Vitola began calling nonsmoking advocacy teams for assist. One invited her to talk on the boardwalk at a rally. Vitola had by no means delivered a public speech, however she agreed.

Nicole Vitola, a dealer at the Borgata casino, speaks at a rally to ban smoking in April 2022. Vitola became outspoken on the issue when the state rescinded a temporary smoking ban implemented during the pandemic.
Nicole Vitola, a vendor on the Borgata on line casino, speaks at a rally to ban smoking in April 2022. Vitola turned outspoken on the difficulty when the state rescinded a short lived smoking ban applied through the pandemic.

Wayne Parry/Associated Press

She wasn’t petrified of chatting with the gang. “I was scared to get cancer,” she says.

Smokers have been free to gentle up once more simply earlier than the July 4 vacation weekend. Naccarelli hoped the change would include little fanfare; maybe prospects wouldn’t even notice the ban had been lifted. But at midnight, Naccarelli recollects, on line casino employees fanned out, putting ashtrays on the slot machines and card tables designated for smoking. He was so offended that in his break he began calling legal professionals to see if something might be finished.

Naccarelli wasn’t the one vendor outraged by the change. Ricky Foster had as soon as stop dealing, in 2019, after watching his father die of lung most cancers.

“This was a tough dude. He was a roofer, a motorcycle guy. I watched him buckle down to nothing, quick,” Foster, 46, says of his dad. “Seeing all this secondhand smoke was a huge factor in my decision to move on and change my career.”

Foster went to work portray traces for a freeway lining firm, however in 2020 a person driving a Jeep crashed into Foster’s worksite on the interstate, killing one crewmate and hospitalizing Foster. So he determined to place his vendor’s uniform again on in 2021, assuming the ban had been left in place.

“I couldn’t believe it had gone back to smoking,” he says.

Naccarelli and Vitola have been offended sufficient to begin publicly difficult the regulation, in addition to their employer’s highly effective commerce group, the Casino Association of New Jersey. So was their buddy Lamont White, a Borgata vendor who’s been within the casinos since 1985.

Lamont White, 61, grew up in Atlantic City and has been working in the casinos since 1985. He testified in favor of a smoking ban before state legislators.
Lamont White, 61, grew up in Atlantic City and has been working within the casinos since 1985. He testified in favor of a smoking ban earlier than state legislators.

White, 61, has at all times nervous that his line of labor might shorten his life, particularly now that he has 4 grandchildren and a fifth on the best way. He has by no means purchased the {industry}’s claims that jobs will disappear if smoking is banned. When the pandemic hit, casinos have been closed for 107 days after which topic to a 25% occupancy cap, resulting in a 44% drop in income for the 12 months. But White says people who smoke nonetheless confirmed as much as play.

“They couldn’t even drink a soda at the table,” the Atlantic City native says. “They didn’t care because they came to gamble.”

White, Naccarelli and Vitola began connecting with extra sellers by means of textual content, planning rallies and shuttling supporters to Trenton to satisfy with lawmakers. They fashioned a gaggle, Casino Employees Against Smoking’s (Harmful) Effects ― or CEASE, an acronym that appeared inevitable. Their outspokenness was daring contemplating they don’t have union protections.

At a diner outdoors the town, in Egg Harbor, New Jersey, simply earlier than Vitola heads in for her shift, the three of them meet on a Thursday morning. Vitola thumbs by means of her cellphone to verify her work schedule for the day. Certain tables are recognized to be smokier than others, she says, and he or she would know by the desk numbers what she may anticipate. She can’t see her assignments till about an hour earlier than she begins.

“They notice that too many people call out when they know they’re on smoking games,” she says.

“We can’t turn our head. We have to just stand there and eat it. I mean, it’s just – it’s torture.”

– Dealer Pete Naccarelli

The sellers need to be clear: They don’t blame people who smoke. They blame the state for granting a carve-out to a strong foyer. (State Sen. Richard Codey, the previous Democratic governor who signed the 2006 laws, has since stated he regrets the on line casino exception, calling it “the wrong thing to do.”) They additionally blame the {industry} and its customer-is-always proper perspective, which requires them to breathe the smoke with out criticism.

Most people who smoke attempt to be thoughtful, Naccarelli says. But the dynamic at a blackjack desk doesn’t at all times lend itself to courtesy. People drink. They catch some dangerous arms. They begin to blame the vendor.

“They’re getting a little buzzed and they’re losing some money, and they’re looking right at you,” he explains. “It’s not convenient for them to turn and blow away from you.”

Dealers make their cash totally on ideas. Atlantic City sellers are paid a sub-minimum wage, like restaurant servers ― in New Jersey, as little as $5.26 per hour earlier than gratuities. Casual gamers have the misimpression that sellers need them to lose as a result of sellers work for the home. In actuality, sellers need them to win as a result of winners tip. The Borgata has a fame as one of many better-paying casinos on the town, however Naccarelli nonetheless delivers for DoorDash on the facet.

Nicole Vitola says that dealing through her pregnancies were the most trying times of her career due to the risks of secondhand smoke.
Nicole Vitola says that dealing by means of her pregnancies have been probably the most attempting instances of her profession as a result of dangers of secondhand smoke.

More than something, sellers need gamblers within the seats. That’s why Vitola says she wouldn’t push so laborious for a smoking ban if she thought it will harm income.

“I make 80% of my money on tips,” she says. “We have everything to lose if these players leave.”

In her greater than 20 years inside casinos, Vitola says her most attempting intervals have been throughout her pregnancies. She has a 23-year-old daughter and a 17-year-old son, and it nonetheless pains her when she thinks about what she uncovered them to. Working amid secondhand smoke will increase the probability of getting a child with low birthweight, based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Never ever once did they say, ‘Oh, you’re pregnant. Let’s put you on a nonsmoking game.’”

– Dealer Nicole Vitola

“Can you imagine wondering what you’re doing [to] her? What’s happening to her while you’re pregnant?” Vitola asks.

She warns that she’ll cry.

Never ever once did they say, ’Oh, you’re pregnant. Let’s put you on a nonsmoking game,’” she says. “I was like a high-end dealer. I dealt to a lot of celebrities. And they would put you in a back private room and, of course, they hand out cigars. I was six months pregnant. Nobody’s thinking for us. Nobody’s protecting us.”

She’s heard it earlier than: Why don’t you simply get one other job?

She says she’s nearly 50.

“This is what I know.”

The smoking issue has pitted labor unions in the city against one another.
The smoking concern has pitted labor unions within the metropolis in opposition to each other.

A Rift In Labor

The sellers pushing for a ban have the assist of the United Auto Workers, the union that represents sellers on the Caesars, Bally’s and Tropicana casinos in Atlantic City, although not the Borgata. The union’s hard-charging president, Shawn Fain, newly well-known from the UAW’s historic strike in opposition to the Big Three automakers, has publicly denounced the playing {industry}’s place as “preposterous.”

But the difficulty has additionally pitted the UAW in opposition to what’s usually a pure ally: Local 54, an affiliate of the highly effective hospitality staff union Unite Here, which represents housekeepers, cocktail servers and bartenders within the metropolis’s casinos and lodges. When sellers confirmed as much as a listening to in Trenton of their anti-smoking shirts, they stood throughout from Local 54 members of their union gear.

The union’s president, Donna DeCaprio, says that she’s at all times involved about staff’ well being and well-being however a ban would spell “economic catastrophe” for the town.

“I’m used to being across the table sparring it out with them,” she says of the on line casino operators, “but we are aligned on this issue simply because of the impact it will have on jobs.”

If a ban goes into impact, DeCaprio says, out-of-town chainsmokers will skip the Atlantic City Expressway and head to the flooring in Pennsylvania the place they might nonetheless gentle up. She predicts at the least one Atlantic City on line casino can be compelled to shut.

“Gambling, smoking and drinking – they’re all vices, and they all go hand in hand, whether we like it or not.”

– Donna DeCaprio, president of Unite Here Local 54

Parx Casino in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, is totally nonsmoking and appears to be thriving. But DeCaprio dismisses the comparability as a “locals’ casino” that doesn’t depend on guests the best way Atlantic City does. Locals will present up whether or not they can smoke or not, she says, whereas people who smoke from New York will discover some place else to gamble.

The Atlantic City council as soon as applied a on line casino smoking ban in 2008, then shortly suspended it after the {industry} reported a drop in income. DeCaprio factors to that real-world experiment as a trigger for warning. But general U.S. smoking charges have dropped considerably prior to now 16 years, and people who smoke have grown extra accustomed to having to step outdoors resulting from adjustments within the regulation.

Donna DeCaprio, president of Unite Here Local 54, opposes a full smoking ban, arguing it would cost the city much-needed jobs.
Donna DeCaprio, president of Unite Here Local 54, opposes a full smoking ban, arguing it will price the town much-needed jobs.

Wayne Parry/Associated Press

DeCaprio’s union has not formally polled its membership on the difficulty, however she stated a number of conferences with members satisfied her they share management’s issues a few ban. Fewer hours for staff would imply fewer staff qualifying for union well being protection.

“Our housekeepers are making $19 an hour now, with a pension and health care. These are good jobs. There aren’t other jobs like this in South Jersey,” she says. “Gambling, smoking and drinking ― they’re all vices, and they all go hand in hand, whether we like it or not.

Patrick Ashton, a UAW consultant for sellers, says his buddies at Local 54 are unsuitable on this one. He says it’s simpler for them to oppose a ban as a result of housekeepers don’t encounter secondhand smoke to the diploma sellers do. (Hotels are nonetheless allowed to have visitor rooms for people who smoke.)

“The dealers are the only workers who are a captive audience to smoking for their whole shift,” Ashton says.

Local 54 has pushed for a “compromise” measure. Although no invoice has been launched, a number of concepts have been floated. New Jersey may cross a set off regulation that ends smoking in casinos if Pennsylvania does so first. Or the casinos may create separate smoking rooms with new air flow programs, the place sellers would ostensibly work solely by alternative. Dealers like Naccarelli say they might find yourself there involuntarily as a result of they want hours and be aware that even a commerce group for the HVAC {industry} says air flow can’t forestall the dangers of secondhand smoke.

Local 54 is seemingly not the one union that opposes a ban. Foster, the vendor whose father died of lung most cancers, says he ran right into a painters’ union consultant he knew when he was on the statehouse for a listening to on the smoking concern. Foster was stunned that the union had taken a place in any respect.

“He was like, ‘Listen, we need to keep our painters working in Atlantic City,’” Foster recounts. “I said, ‘You guys are unbelievable.’”

The constructing trades unions oppose a whole and speedy ban on smoking. Their members get work on the casinos and will find yourself constructing new smoking rooms in a compromise, however Michael Laughlin, president of the native constructing trades council, says their place is absolutely concerning the broader native financial system. Atlantic City, the place playing was legalized in 1976, has ceded floor to different states and tribal lands as casinos have proliferated on the East Coast, a development Laughlin predicts would speed up.

He says he sympathizes with the sellers.

Opponents of the smoking ban say they want to broker a "compromise" bill.
Opponents of the smoking ban say they need to dealer a “compromise” invoice.

“If that was my son or daughter or wife, I wouldn’t want them working in that environment long term,” Laughlin says. “The trades do not want anyone to be exposed to smoke every day, but we also don’t want to see what’s left of the Atlantic City market crash and burn.”

A smoking ban had plenty of assist in each homes of the legislature final 12 months. But first it wanted to make it out of the state’s Senate well being committee in December. According to the UAW’s Ashton, the sellers misplaced an important backer, a soon-to-retire Democrat. Ashton says one other vocal, heretofore supporter of the ban, an Atlantic City Republican who had rallied with sellers, began speaking about crafting a compromise with the {industry}’s enter. The invoice was caught.

Supporters of the ban lit cigarettes within the chamber as a protest. Ashton says he was eliminated by a state trooper. The sellers had simply obtained their crash course in Jersey politics.

Brian Christopher, a web based influencer for slot machines and casinos who has 650,000 followers on YouTube, argues that any lack of income resulting from a ban can be greater than offset by new guests comfortable to not be round smoke. He feels nauseated on smoky sport flooring, so he not too long ago stopped selling any casinos that also permit it, and he testified in favor of the ban in Atlantic City. He says his followers are typically millennials and are overwhelmingly nonsmokers.

“It’s the same argument they used when they were getting rid of smoking in bars and restaurants,” Christopher says in a cellphone interview, simply after boarding a smoke-free slots cruise that he’s headlining for Carnival Cruise Line. “They’re using scare tactics on [workers]. It’s horrible that they’re doing that.”

Like Atlantic City, Las Vegas nonetheless permits smoking on sport flooring; the Park MGM is the one totally smoke-free on line casino on the Strip. Last 12 months Christopher collaborated with the Plaza Hotel & Casino in downtown Vegas on growing a smoke-free, “social-media friendly” slots room, replete with specifically styled selfie backdrops. It opened in June.

“People walk in and say, ‘It smells so good,’” Christopher says. “I tell them, ‘It doesn’t actually have a smell ― that’s what you’re smelling.’”

A bill to ban smoking in Atlantic City's casinos could be voted on in New Jersey's state Senate later this year.
A invoice to ban smoking in Atlantic City’s casinos might be voted on in New Jersey’s state Senate later this 12 months.

Wayne Parry/Associated Press

‘Two Separate Addictions’

On Jan. 29, legislators in Trenton handed the invoice banning on line casino smoking out of the Senate well being committee, the place it had died repeatedly for greater than a decade. Dealers pushing for the ban celebrated the legislative breakthrough however know that loads of lobbying lies forward of a ground vote that will come later this 12 months.

Sen. Joseph Vitale, the Democratic chair of the well being committee and a lead sponsor of the invoice, says he has little interest in watering the invoice down. He says he has already misplaced a number of co-sponsors resulting from lobbying and couldn’t put a timeline on a broader vote within the chamber. He calls the {industry}’s insistence that they are going to lose income a tacit admission that “smoking is their business model.”

“This is all greed. It isn’t anything else,” Vitale says.

The Casino Association of New Jersey didn’t reply to interview requests for this story. The Borgata referred inquiries to the affiliation.

Chris Moyer, an adviser to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, says he believes the operators worry “a short-term drop in revenue” if a ban goes by means of.

“These executives are incentivized to think on a very short-term basis,” Moyer says. “Even if they lose [just] 2% in a quarter, it’s bad for them and it’s bad for their career. It’s just not a very forward-looking industry.”

He credit outspoken sellers ― Naccarelli, Vitola and White particularly ― for the legislative progress that’s been made towards a ban. The group they began has attracted members who work in casinos in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Nevada, Mississippi, Louisiana, Kansas and Nevada.

“The most compelling people in this argument are the workers, but it’s difficult to get them to speak out because they fear retaliation,” he says.

Lamont White (left), Nicole Vitola and Pete Naccarelli say they don't blame smokers for what they deal with -- they blame the state.
Lamont White (left), Nicole Vitola and Pete Naccarelli say they do not blame people who smoke for what they cope with — they blame the state.

Naccarelli downplays their contributions ― “We’re just three idiots who deal,” he jokes ― however acknowledges how assertive they’ve turn into. It began with small issues, like White carrying a masks to work that stated “smoke-free air makes me smile.” But steadily extra sellers began to talk out publicly and to ask gamers to thoughts the place their smoke goes, one thing they by no means would have finished prior to now, Naccarelli says.

“Before we got together and started kind of empowering people… to say that was a death sentence. I mean, you can get fired,” Naccarelli says. “People are starting to understand, and this is why we’re fighting so hard.”

Smokers themselves appear divided on what a ban would imply for the town. Pasquale Nastramo, a frequent Atlantic City visitor from the Queens borough of New York City who was smoking a cigar simply outdoors the Hard Rock’s doorways on a latest evening, stated he would discover a new city to gamble in. He had simply left a high-roller slots space the place cigars aren’t allowed.

“What really burns you up is when they tell you you can smoke a cigarette but not a cigar,” he says.

But a smoker from Brooklyn named Markie, who declines to offer his final title until he’s paid for it, tells me he doesn’t imagine the predictions {that a} smoking ban would decimate the {industry}. I meet Markie as I’m strolling by means of the ground of the Resorts on line casino, attempting to determine the place smoking is allowed and the place it’s prohibited. He’s having a cigarette at a slot machine, ignoring the no-smoking placard subsequent to his empty cup.

“They’re lying,” he says of the on line casino operators. “Gambling and smoking are two separate addictions. People need breaks when they gamble anyway.”

He stabs his cigarette out on a lime and flags down a cocktail server for a Jack Daniels.

“This here,” Markie goes on, gesturing to the vying “smoking” and “no smoking” indicators, “this doesn’t make sense. … Do you think smoke doesn’t travel?”

Another gambler waves me over as I stroll by. He faucets two fingers to his lips. “Do you have a cigarette?” he asks.

“Good for you,” the person says.

Did the person hear they may ban smoking in casinos? Yes, he noticed it on the information.

What will he do if it involves cross?

“I’ll just step outside,” he says.