Lamont White has been a casino dealer for over 38 years. Born and raised in Atlantic City, White and several other dealers got together following the pandemic to urge casinos to continue to ban smoking. They weren’t successful, so they founded Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects (CEASE), which is dedicated to eliminating smoking in Atlantic City casinos. There was hope that a bill prohibiting smoking in New Jersey casinos would pass following the November elections, but it failed to happen. He spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros at G2E in Las Vegas in October before the measure was turned away. To hear and see a full version of this interview visit GGBMagazine.com.
GGB: What inspired you and your fellow dealers to form CEASE?
White: Before the pandemic, I basically accepted the smoke just like everybody else. It was part of the job. Once the pandemic hit and we had a year of smoke-free gaming, that was a game-changer. We heard that they were going to bring smoking back. I was invited to a smoke-free rally, and when I got there, I was a little disappointed at the turnout because I know how much dealers hate smoke. I thought there would be thousands of people there.
So we decided to put a second rally together. We started a Facebook page and within a week we had 500 people. Within two weeks we had over 1,000 people. We convinced a couple of influential politicians to show up and we had two media outlets show up as well. Several hundred people showed up, dealers and other casino personnel. We later got support from the Americans for Nonsmokers Rights as well.
At last year’s East Coast Gaming Congress they had a panel on smoking. How did that turn out?
It didn’t work out how the Gaming Congress planned. The president of the Casino Association of New Jersey was supposed to be on the panel but he pulled out at the last minute, and they couldn’t find anyone else to replace him to give the casino industry point of view.
The only representative of the gaming industry was an executive from Greenwood Racing, the owner of Parx casino in Pennsylvania, which is already non-smoking. But what can they say? You can’t sit there and say we support making money more than we support the health of our employees and people’s lives.
How about the New Jersey legislature when they held hearings on the smoking ban?
The same thing happened at a Senate hearing and an Assembly hearing. At both hearings the casinos didn’t send anybody. Nobody from any casino came and represented their side.
Tell us what it’s like dealing at a craps or blackjack game with smokers.
It’s hard. It’s like torture. It gets into your nose, your mouth and your eyes, you’re not allowed to turn away. They’re only three feet away from you. It’s bad when it’s just one cigarette, but more than one is terrible. I’ve experienced five cigarettes at one time and three, four cigars at one time. That’s the worst. It’s really inhumane. And of course the health consequences are terrible.
CEASE is now active in several states outside of New Jersey, including Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. Tell us how you’re being received there and what the response to the new studies has been.
The study that the New Jersey casinos count on uses lots of old data—more than 10 years old. They talk about jobs being lost. But we now know since the pandemic that’s no longer the story for sure. They’re holding onto old ideas. It has to change. People don’t want to work in casinos because a 30-year-old kid now has never been in a smoking restaurant, never been in a smoking bar, never been on a smoking airplane. The fact that casinos are the last place in America where you’re allowed to smoke indoors is just total hypocrisy.