January 16, 2006

Double Standard Law For Atlantic City

New Jersey has banned smoking in all indoor public places, including bars, but has exempted casino gaming areas from the ban.

Personally, I don’t believe that any government, city, state or federal, should have the right to tell a bar, restaurant or office-based business owner whether he can or cannot allow smoking in his establishment or office complex.

It is, after all, the owner’s business. He or she owns or leases the property and as such has the right to determine such issues. People who do not like cigarette smoke are not forced to hang around or seek employment on the premises. They can frequent or work at places where non-smoking or anti-smoking proprieters do not allow tobacco use on the property.

The self righteous proponents of government imposed smoking bans claim that they have the health interests of non-smoking employees at heart. Balderdash! They are merely grinding an axe and using state governments as their conduits. The vast majority of the bars and restaurants I’ve frequented over the last few decades have had one thing in common: all, or nearly all of the employees were smokers. This means that in most cases, these smoking nazis are getting legislation enacted that “protects” these employees without their consent.

That said, I especially take umbrage with the government passing double standard laws that tilt the proverbial playing field rather than keeping it level.

Having worked in the gaming industry in Nevada, I’ve seen a few examples of what happens when people aren’t permitted to smoke, drink and gamble at the same time — it costs a casino some serious money.

The Jersey casinos pay a lot of taxes and their owners contribute big bucks to political campaign funds.

So the casinos are exempt from the same no-smoking law that will be enforced against smaller businesses like bars and restaurants.

For Angeloni, owner of Angeloni’s II, an Italian restaurant two blocks off the casino strip, the casino exemption is a matter of dollars and cents. Customers won’t be able to smoke at his tables or bar, but they will be at the city’s dozen casinos.

“It’s going to kill me, I know it is,” Angeloni said Wednesday. “Do you know how many conventioneers eat here and come out to the bar to smoke afterward? You can kiss them goodbye, now. They won’t even leave the casino.”

Seeing many mom & pop businesses disappearing as giant chains emerge, concerns that can afford to charge less for products while providing more selection has always depressed me. No one can replace the local family-run butcher shop, for example. However, that’s the marketplace, it’s capitalism at work, and it occurs on a legal, level private sector playing field.

By exempting the casinos, which serve food and beverages in vast quantities at all hours, cheaper than the smaller bars and restaurants can afford to charge and often comped, the Jersey gubmint is in fact stacking the deck against these little guys and therefore interfering with the local marketplace.

In short, they’ve both infringed on the rights of business owners like so many other states have, and sabotaged the food and beverage competition for casinos whose actual specialty product is gambling.

If you’re going to pass a law, it needs to apply to everybody, not just those who generate less tax revenue, employ less people and make smaller campaign contributions.

While I’m a hard core advocate of states’ rights, I think this one should rightly be taken to a higher court by the small business owners who stand to lose a lot of money, if not their very businesses, by this inequity in the new New Jersey state law.

by @ 7:27 am. Filed under American Rights
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