Governor Murphy’s Legal Rep Seeks Dismissal of Smoking Ban Lawsuit in Atlantic City

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In the heart of New Jersey’s bustling legal battlegrounds, a legal representative for Democratic Governor, Phil Murphy, has recently approached the Superior Court, seeking dismissal of a lawsuit under dispute. The hotly contested lawsuit targets New Jersey’s state law that permits casinos in the lively hub of Atlantic City to reserve up to a quarter of their gaming arena for indoor tobacco use.

The key players behind this legal tussle are the United Auto Workers (UAW) and Casino Employees Against Smoking’s Effects (CEASE), who presented their case to the Superior Court in the early days of April. Their lawsuit named the state’s governor, Phil Murphy, and New Jersey Health Commissioner, Kaitlan Baston, as defendants.

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The UAW and CEASE argue that the Smoke-Free Air Act of 2006, a state directive, conflicts with the New Jersey constitution. As a union, the UAW acts as a protective shield for table game dealers, employed across three major casinos in Atlantic City, who find themselves vulnerable to harmful secondhand smoke infiltrating the nine casinos across the state. CEASE operates as a grassroots movement spearheaded by casino employees demanding healthier working conditions.

In a shock move, Matthew Platkin, serving as the state attorney general, dismissed the lawsuit, labeling it as groundless. At odds with the union and the grassroots movement, Platkin contested that the smoking law providing leniencies for casinos does not encroach upon any presumed constitutional rights to safety.

On the other side of the divide, lawyers representing UAW and CEASE anchor their defense in the New Jersey Constitution, insisting upon the inalienable right of individuals to pursue happiness and safety in their lives. As per their argument, the contemporary state smoking laws breach this constitutional assurance.

Grave accusations form the centerpiece of their legal battle – they level claims that the legislature is barred from passing any special laws or providing corporations with exclusive rights. According to their claims, the exclusion of wealthy casinos from the Air Act sanctions them exclusive rights to compromise the well-being of their workforce.

As the mailed fist behind the lawsuit that supports CEASE, the UAW is pitted against another Atlantic City union, Unite Here Local 54, who strongly object to eradicating the smoking provision. The brass of Unite Here argue that a smoking ban would deal a significant blow to the Atlantic City’s thriving casino industry and put a third of resort jobs in jeopardy.

Unite Here is a representative for casino workers engaged in nongaming positions, such as kitchen personnel, housekeeping staff, waiters, bellmen, and porters. The union underlines its fears that a comprehensive smoking ban would jeopardize thousands of jobs and, consequently, undermine wages, welfare benefits, health benefits, and retirement benefits of Local 54’s members and their relatives.

The lawsuit’s balance could be tipped by President Donna DeCaprio of local Unite Here Local 54, who counteracts the claims of UAW and CEASE. Evidence came to light that 50% to 72% of the gross gaming revenue (GGR) claimed by casinos were generated from smoking areas; a whopping sum that added to over $1.42 billion.

CEASE, however, finds these figures contestable, referring to independent research carried out by Las Vegas-based C3 Gaming. Their findings concluded that a smoking ban in casinos no longer significantly affects the gaming revenue.

Governor Phil Murphy weighed in on this issue, suggesting that this topic should be resolved not via a courtroom but through legislative action. Regardless of the outcome, this clash serves a poignant reminder of the bitter struggles between unions, corporations, and state laws.

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Melinda Cochrane is a poet, teacher and fiction author. She is also the editor and publisher of The Inspired Heart, a collection of international writers. Melinda also runs a publishing company, Melinda Cochrane International books for aspiring writers, based out Montreal, Quebec. Her publication credits include: The art of poetic inquiry, (Backalong Books), a novella, Desperate Freedom, (Brian Wrixon Books Canada), and 2 collections of poetry; The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat, (Backalong Books), and She’s an Island Poet, Desperate Freedom was on the bestseller's list for one week, and The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat is one of hope and encouragement for all those living in the social welfare system. She’s been published in online magazines such as, (regular writer for) ‘Life as a Human’, and Shannon Grissom’s magazine.