An occasional update on local stories that were in the news just a year ago.

The state's dire economic situation was not as evident a year ago. That might have been why Atlantic City council members voted unanimously to ban smoking entirely in all resort casinos on April 23, 2008.

Since then, the tanking economy has given casino executives a strong argument to delay the full ban. Smoking opponents had their brief day in the sun, but when it came time for the city to pull the trigger on their legislation, resort government balked. On Oct. 8, council voted 5-4 to delay implementing the smoking ban.

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"Now is the wrong time," Mark Juliano, chief executive officer of Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc., told council before its vote to delay the ban. "Timing is the issue. Not whether to implement (the restrictions), but when to do so."

Council's delay will continue at least until October. However, discussion of the ban has ceased entirely among council members since its deadline was extended.

Meanwhile, nonsmoking advocates are turning to the state for a solution.

State legislators recently discussed the loophole in the New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act that allows casino smoking. A panel of lawmakers heard testimony from both sides but did not hold a vote to close the loophole.

Casino plans dashed

Atlantic City's two gateways were major development targets in April 2008. Penn National Gaming, a Pennsylvania-based casino and racetrack operator, was leaping hurdles with the state's Department of Environmental Protection to build a new casino at the resort's Route 30 entrance.

Meanwhile, Ole Hansen & Sons Inc., the owner of a bus station at the city's Route 40 entrance, lobbied the city's Planning Board for rezoning approval to build their own casino.

In the end, the city shot down Ole Hansen's proposal, and the economy sunk Penn National's.

City officials dismissed Ole Hansen's development ideas mostly out of concern for the city's interests at Bader Field, a 143-acre tract of city-owned land. Officials worried that interested developers could bypass dealing with city and state government and purchase casino land privately on Route 40.

In February, Penn National announced its Route 30 project had been scrapped. The developer blamed the recession and Atlantic City's withering casino market. Company officials recently said they still have moderate interest in Bader Field, but not in the $800 million offer the city rejected last year.

Crackdown on ATVs

State Police from the Port Norris barracks unveiled two all-terrain vehicles in April that are the first for any New Jersey State Police barracks. They hope the vehicles will help them chase illegal riders, along with gaining better access to southern New Jersey's isolated wooded areas during investigations and missing-persons searches.

Since the State Police began cracking down on illegal ATV riders, wooded municipalities such as Port Republic and Corbin City have signed legislation targeting the vehicles.

Corbin City banned the vehicles' use on public roads and land. Port Republic officials toughened penalties on illegal riders and gave property owners discretion over whether to allow riding on their sites.

Also, a coalition of consumer and health groups released data in November showing that serious injuries to children caused by all-terrain vehicles increased for the eighth year in a row. It also said children younger than 16 continued to suffer a significant portion of those injuries.

E-mail Michael Clark:

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