Majority of Nevadans Support Smoke-Free Casinos, Survey Reveals

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The mood of change is palpable in the state of Nevada, where recent polls indicate that the majority of the population may support a legislative movement to eliminate the pervasive smoke-filled ambiance on the casino floors. These findings come from a recent survey conducted by the Nevada Tobacco Control and Smoke-free Coalition and Washington, D.C.-based Normington Petts, which reveals that nearly six out of every ten Nevadans believe that the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act, introduced back in 2006, ought to be revised to include the long-standing casino exemption.

In spite of these statistics, the political landscape remains challenging—the movers and shakers of Nevada’s dominating casino industry wield formidable influence within the corridors of power in Carson City. Nevertheless, the poll shows a strong 58% of Nevada voters see the merit in mandating smoke-free casinos, mirroring recent legislative efforts extending as far as Atlantic City.

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Titled towards legal alterations, Atlantic City’s casinos, operating under New Jersey’s Smoke-Free Air Act (also a legal offspring of 2006) can designate up to twenty-five percent of their gaming space for indoor tobacco use. While the proposed modifications would alter this status quo, a study by the University of Nevada Reno paints an alarming picture of the health risks associated with secondhand smoke indoors.

The university researchers’ study pointed out that secondhand smoke is eighteen times more dangerous inside than outside, a conclusion in alignment with a similar study conducted last year by the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alarmingly enough, the study specified that despite areas of casinos being marked as smoke-free, elevated levels of dangerous particulate matter were pervasive. Particulates, a hundred times thinner than a human strand of hair, can linger in the air for more than 24 hours, subsequently posing a severe health risk to casino patrons and employees.

The CDC strongly recommended the only way forward would be to institute a blanket smoking ban inside casinos – a strategy already adopted by several commercial gaming states namely Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, and South Dakota. Meanwhile, smoking rates in the US are on a gradual decline, with rates dropping from 21% in 2005 to 11.5% in 2021. However, Nevada’s smoking prevalence remains a touch higher, with 15% of adults still holding on to the habit.

The casino industry remains a formidable force in Nevada, employing more people than any other industry, with MGM Resorts being the state’s largest employer. Unsurprisingly, the industry is vehemently against any move to extinguish indoor smoking, with executives arguing such a regulation would divert gamblers to states or tribal casinos with more liberal tobacco laws. Interestingly, the Nevada Tobacco Control and Smoke-free Coalition poll discovered less than four out of ten Nevadans hold faith in the industry’s claims that a smoking ban could hamper gaming revenue and result in job layoffs.

Anti-smoking advocates regularly highlight the success of the casino Parx, located just north of Philadelphia, as the only full-scale casino in Pennsylvania that outlaws indoor smoking and continues to dominate the gaming industry. Some lobbyists postulate that a smoking ban would work wonders for gaming revenue, suggesting that Parx has become the premier destination for non-smokers, while other casinos in Philadelphia market are contesting for the smoking demographic.