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Anti-smoking group wages war on smoking in casino facilities nationwide

Senior Reporter

Smoking in a gambling facility is almost an aesthetic to some people. And even looking back at old-fashioned American films with casino scenes, you will see fancy men tossing cards with a cigar in their hand or a group of guys playing jackpot with their cigarettes filling a dark room with gray smoke. In other words, smoking while gambling is almost like a ritual to those who fancy tainted lungs. However, Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights foundation is not too happy about it.

Anti-smoking group wages war on smoking in casino facilities nationwide
Image: pixabay.com

Smoking inside facilities didn’t seem to be an issue until about a decade and a half earlier, and even restaurants in the USA allowed guests to light one up while enjoying their meal up until 2010, when it got banned. 

In November 2006, most Nevada residents voted in favor of a non-smoking law that was finalized in January 2007 under the title “Nevada Clean Air Act.” The Nevada Clean Air Act then prohibited smoking in indoor workplaces. In addition to that, all along with the mid-2000s, states across America enacted a statewide smoking ban of some sort (each one with its own set of laws). 

Today smoking in casinos solely depends on laws in individual states. Some give gambling facilities get blanket exemptions for smoking indoors, while others have designated areas for guests who want to light one up. In addition to that, tribal casinos get a free pass on allowing indoor smoking due to sovereign immunity. 

However, a  California-based advocacy group called Americans for Nonsmokers Rights isn’t having it and is working hard to push a nationwide ban on smoking inside casinos. Since casinos in the USA began reopening after the lockdown, the group is putting in extra effort to push their no-smoking agenda. 

The president and CEO of the group, Cynthia Hallett, stated the following:  

“Another record-breaking revenue month in Atlantic City — while casinos operated smoke-free — offers the latest evidence that smoke-free is good for business...Industry arguments for indoor smoking, even in the year 2021, have lost credibility. It’s time for Gov. (Phil) Murphy and Senate President (Stephen) Sweeney to act to finally close the casino loophole so that workers and guests are not forced to breathe harmful secondhand smoke. No one should have to choose between a job and a paycheck.”

In the midst of the pandemic, New Jersey officials put a temporary ban on smoking inside gambling facilities, which ended on the Fourth of July of 2021. After that, Americans for Nonsmokers Rights concluded that the spike in revenue among casinos was related to guests being able to smoke indoors. They weren’t wrong, as most casinos see a decrease in revenue the moment they ban smoking. However, the numbers go right back up after a while.

Although most states don’t allow smoking inside their facilities, a few simply restrict guests from doing so at table games. Las Vegas, on the other hand, has a lot more lenience in that regard.

Despite the anti-smoking group’s conclusion on revenue success, a considerable number of analysts reported that the true reason for the rise in revenue is the anticipation of freedom during the lockdown that had people flooding into casinos the moment facilities started opening back up. In their professional opinion, smoking had absolutely nothing to do with the increasing numbers and that the group was simply jumping to conclusions. 

Another representative of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, Onjewel Smith, expressed that casino employees are at greatest risk from smoking and that Black and brown women are mostly the ones whose lives are being put at risk. So regardless of the baseless statements regarding casinos’ revenue, the group’s motive is clearly in favor of people’s health. However, the facilities, as well as angered casino lovers, are generously showering Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights with criticism. Gamblers also fight back against the efforts, claiming that smoking in casinos is their God-given right. 

The Casino Association of New Jersey is completely against the proposed smoking ban and is reluctant to leave any room for debate as it could hurt financially, 

“Going completely nonsmoking would place Atlantic City casinos at a competitive disadvantage with other nearby casinos that allow smoking.”

They added that this ban would result in fewer people coming in to gamble, would cut into the employment rate, and negatively affect tax revenue. Additionally, they stated that they put a lot of effort into cleaning and ensuring that the air filtration systems keep damages from smoking to a minimum.

Both sides bring up good points in regards to the issue. In the anti-smoking group’s defense, smoking is a health hazard for casino workers and, of course, all the guests surrounded by thick cigarette smoke. The workers at gambling facilities have no choice but to breathe in tainted air for hours during their hour-long shifts. However, smoking is a part of the experience for some gamblers and would fight to the death if that right was taken away from them. 

So who’s right in this situation? Perhaps it’s best to let people’s votes decide on the issue. No one in the history of human existence has ever died from not smoking a cigarette for half an hour, so if it’s that huge of a deal, designated smoking areas are a decent alternative that should give both sides a small dose of satisfaction. 

As for employees affected by the smoke - no one is forced to work in a place with such health hazards. Anyone applying for a job in a casino is likely aware of what the job entails. After all, it’s America we’re talking about; finding a different job is not an impossible task.

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