“Are Smoke-Free Casinos Here To Stay.” The long debate about smoking in casinos appears to have reached a turning point.” The effects of the pandemic turned many casinos into smokeless casinos. However, new England’s casinos were still smoke-free until recently, when Bally’s Twin River and Tiverton returned to smoking.
Why Are Smoke-Free Casinos So Controversial?
Historically, casino operators have long been resistant to banning smoking indoors, wary of alienating a segment of gamblers who prefer to light up while playing slots, blackjack, or other games. But the blessed trinity of casino gambling, smoking, and drinking might be losing tobacco for good.
The chance to socialize at the local gambling hall with a group of friends, cigar in one hand and drink in the other, is now under attack more than ever.
The gaming history includes smoking a cigarette or cigar accompanied by an alcoholic drink. When non-smoking areas grew on casino floors, the nonsmoking rooms underperformed dramatically.
New England’s Casinos are smokeless except for Bally’s Tiverton and Twin River in Rhode Island.
Over the years, we have understood the harm of secondhand smoke. Restrictions popped up for the casino staff’s health and safety, such as not smoking at the tables, cashier, and rewards desk. Clean Indoor Air Acts, made at the state level, took care of restaurants, workplaces, and public places.
A recent study by scientists from Stanford and Tufts Universities published in the journal Environmental Research the following statistics – each year:
- Fifty million nonsmoking casino patrons gamble with their lives inside casinos that allow smoking.
- Four hundred thousand nonsmoking casino workers gamble with their lives inside casinos that allow smoking.
- Less than 2 hours of exposure to secondhand smoke in half of the casinos surveyed is enough to impair the heart’s ability to pump blood, placing susceptible casino patrons and workers at acute risk of heart disease.
Banning Smoking in Lounges and Clubs
It was an outrage in the 1980s when smoking was banned from music venues. However, it wasn’t for employees, especially musicians! After a gig, I would have to change out of my clothes in the garage for a few days because of the smoke. When I woke up the next afternoon, my mustache still smelled awful – not to mention the damage my lungs were waking to.
Attendees to these places said they wouldn’t go to these non-smoking venues. And now, people are willing to pay outrageous prices for specialty cocktails and bottle service in these non-smoking venues without complaining about lighting up.
Smoke-Free Areas in Casinos Don’t Work Very Well
To address concerns about secondhand smoke, gaming operators have long implemented measures to please everyone. But, the inherent problem with designated smoking areas, smoking rooms, and ventilation systems doesn’t work as intended.
Bronson Frick, the director of advocacy for the nonprofit groups Americans for Nonsmokers Rights and the Americans Nonsmokers Rights Foundation, is reported as saying, “[“these efforts] don’t stop the smoke from spreading, and none of those approaches address the health hazard of secondhand smoke…”
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Slots Influencer / Americans for Nonsmokers Rights Survey
Brian Christopher, the founder of BC Slots, says the answer “do patrons want to eliminate smoking?” is an unequivocal yes. In a joint project with the ANRF (American Nonsmokers Right Foundation), Christopher developed a survey concerning how slot players feel about gambling. The results of the survey include:
- 70% of gamblers admit they are bothered by smoking in casinos
- 95% of respondents think smoking is a health hazard
- 88% of smokers would choose a non-smoking casino over a smoking casino, provided there was an outdoor option, such as a smoking patio
Brian says the pandemic has forced casino operators to re-assess their commitment to customer safety.
The installation of high-tech HVAC systems and air purifiers … are welcome developments.Brian Christopher, the founder of BC Slots
Atlantic City Amid the Controversy
New Jersey’s casinos for years have struggled with trying “to balance the needs of smoking and non-smoking guests and employees, while also maintaining casino revenues and employment levels. According toDaniel J Munoz’s report in NJBIZ.com recently,
“A February report commissioned by New Jersey’s casino industry warns of a profound economic loss stemming from a potential smoking ban on the casino floors. Current state law allows casinos to set aside 25% of their floor space for smokers. The report conducted by Spectrum Gaming Group and paid for by the Casino Association of New Jersey warns that up to 2,500 jobs at the casinos could be lost. In addition, gambling and non-gambling revenue – from dining, entertainment, and hotel stays – could fall 10.9% and 6.5%, respectively, while tax revenue could fall by as much as $44 million.
That’s because smokers, who account for 21% of Atlantic City gamblers, tend to spend more time and money in the casinos but would spend less if they had to go outside to smoke…”
Similar warnings were abundant leading up to the 2006 enactment of the New Jersey Smoke-free Air Act. Sen. Richard Codey said, “If you had asked the tavern and restaurant owners when we put in the smoking ban, they were upset with me,” he told NJBIZ. “Years later, they all said, ‘you know what, guv, we were wrong.”
Maybe it is still too early. On the other hand, maybe AC needs to get its loyal patrons back.
Below is a map from the ANRF. As of April 2022, over 1,036 U.S. casinos and other gaming properties have 100% smoke-free indoor air policies. Although, this may need plenty of revision in the coming months. For example, Rhode Island casinos are now 100% smoking.
This number includes at least 157 Tribal gaming facilities operating smoke-free during the COVID-19 pandemic by their sovereign policy. For an interactive experience with the same map, click here. You can sort the table by any column and click owner and state names to see property-by-property details. Click here to see a list of Smokefree operators.
The expectation is that the lack of secondhand smoke exposure will improve employees’ health and positively impact the long term. The old days of leaving the casino smelling of smoke could be changing. The future of smoking in casinos could be vastly different from 2018. We’ll continue to watch and see.