NJ AG Recommends Dropping Case to Ban Smoking at Atlantic City Casinos

New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin wants the lawsuit that aims to stop smoking in Atlantic City casinos to be thrown out.

In a document submitted on Monday evening, Platkin, who is representing the state in the lawsuit against Gov. Phil Murphy and acting Health Commissioner Kaitlan Baston, argued that the state Superior Court in Mercer County should reject a request made by casino workers for a preliminary injunction. Platkin stated that this request is not the appropriate method for changing the long-standing exemption that permits smoking in certain areas of casinos.

“Challenging a statute that has been in effect for over 18 years is not the appropriate way to seek relief,” Platkin wrote. The main goal of a preliminary injunction is to maintain the current situation while the parties can further argue and gather evidence about the constitutional claims.

What Else did the State Say?

The document also mentioned that the exception to the state smoking ban, which allows smoking in casinos, does not violate the equal protection rights of workers. This is because there is no reason to apply a stricter level of scrutiny than the rational basis standard.

“Plaintiffs argue that their claims involve their rights to safety and equal protection, but they do not provide any supporting authority for this. However, these rights are not considered fundamental rights that would require a higher level of scrutiny,” Platkin explained. “The plaintiffs cannot claim, and it is not possible for them to claim, that casino workers are a group of people who are suspected of something.”

The filing states that if relief is granted to the workers, it would disrupt the current situation and could have negative effects on the casinos, their management, and other workers who disagree. It could also potentially have economic consequences that the Legislature wanted to avoid when they passed the Smoke-Free Air Act.

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What does the Lawsuit Seek?

The lawsuit was filed in April because there has been no action taken in Trenton to change the exemption that casinos have from the 2006 Smoke-Free Air Act. The workers claim that their constitutional right to safe working conditions has been violated. They state that the ongoing smoke they are exposed to at work has caused them to develop chronic illnesses, and in some instances, it has resulted in death.

A bill supported by state Sen. Joseph Vitale that aims to prohibit smoking in casinos has been approved by a committee in the upper chamber, but it has not progressed any further. A related bill has not made any progress in the Assembly. Legislation with similar goals has been proposed in every session for almost twenty years.

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