In an ongoing and heated debate, the issue of smoking in land-based casinos has been obstructed even further with a research proposal studying the effects of smoking having been denied by 81% of shareholders in Caesars Entertainment. But the battle rages on, as anti-smoking proponents show no signs of giving up.

The battle is still ongoing: the contentious issue of banning smoking in Atlantic City casinos remains unresolved as a lawsuit against local casinos awaits a Superior Court ruling. Various stakeholders, including shareholders of Bally's Corp and Caesars as well as Trinity Health, have expressed their opinions on the matter.

Shareholders say no: research is unnecessary

Shareholders of Bally's Corp and Caesars, who, as most of us know, own four out of the nine casinos in Atlantic City and several online casinos in New Jersey, oppose conducting research on the effects of prohibiting smoking in casino floors and play areas. A nonprofit healthcare organization and shareholder in several gaming companies, Trinity Health, proposed to commission said research. Trinity Health and the Americans for Nonsmoker's Rights Foundation argue that allowing indoor smoking in casinos could lead to higher maintenance costs and worker health insurance premiums, as well as a potential decline in customers who want to avoid exposure to second-hand smoke.

But despite these concerns, the proposal from Trinity Health was rejected. Caesars Entertainment stated that conducting the research would not be a wise use of its resources. The board of directors of Caesars further added that it takes the health and safety of all its customers as seriously as possible, and when it allows smoking in certain designated areas of its many properties, it also naturally ensures that it helps protect its nonsmoking clients' and customers' health.

In fact, in June, more than 81% of votes gathered at Caesars Entertainment’s annual meeting opposed the research proposal, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. Caesars Entertainment runs and operates a total of three casinos in New Jersey’s Atlantic City: Harrah's, Tropicana, and, of course, Caesars, while Bally's owns the Bally's casino.

Proponents of the smoking ban in casinos remain as hopeful as ever

In spite of the strong opposition, however, the CEO of the Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation, Cynthia Hallett, continues to be hopeful. She pointed to the other portion of those supporting research on a smoking ban, which, at this point, consists of Boyd Gaming, with a 22% shareholder support. It’s worth noting, though, that Boyd Gaming does not own or manage any Atlantic City casinos. "We've established an incredibly strong foundation from which to build," Hallett states. She continues that most proposals don't even make it to the voting stage, nor do they reach "double-digit-level support." She further adds that as the issue of smoking in casinos has now reached the boardroom, companies cannot ignore this truly crucial matter that is affecting the health and wellness of both the guests and employees.

This development comes only about a month after a Superior Court judge listened to arguments for a smoking ban following a lawsuit filed by Atlantic City employees in casinos. The employees claim that numerous casino floors in Atlantic City are "toxic" because of the smoking. But the state contended that a ban on smoking would result in revenue and job losses in the thousands. UNITE Here Local 54, a union that represents over 10,000 casino workers, along with the New Jersey attorney general, are pushing for the lawsuit’s dismissal.

In the meantime, Judge Patrick Bartels with the Superior Court, who oversaw the arguments in May, stated his intention to issue a relevant ruling as early as possible. For now, both stakeholders and employees are at a standstill and are eagerly awaiting the verdict.