It appears we’re just a few weeks from seeing casinos in Las Vegas reopen to the public. When these gaming venues open, however, they won’t look quite the same you might remember. Recently, requests to ban smoking in Las Vegas casinos have escalated.Holding A Cigarette
Many have asked for the major casino-resorts in Las Vegas to prohibit smoking for years. Due to the current health concerns, this may actually happen in 2020. Today, we’re going to look at what may lead to this major change.
Let’s get into it!
Major Las Vegas Casinos Plan to Reopen in June
It’s been months since all of the casinos in Las Vegas closed their doors. Governor Sisolak feared that keeping these venues would result in a surge of new Covid-19 cases in Clark County. After two months, infection rates have remained fairly low and state leaders are now looking to reopen the economy.
Casino companies in this state have been asking for permission to reopen since March. These closures have cost these companies millions of dollars every day. It’s also cost hundreds of thousands of individuals their jobs.
Fortunately, things are about to improve. Not long ago, Nevada’s Gaming Commission formally approved a set of guidelines that casino companies can use to reopen their venues. It was exactly what was needed for these companies to set an opening date.
Many of the city’s top casino-resorts now plan to open their doors next month. The Venetian, for example, plans to accept guests starting on June 1st. Several of MGM Resorts’ properties including the New York-New York Hotel-Casino and The Bellagio are also opening their doors in early June.
There will be strict measures set in place here to protect staff and guests. Everyone wants to ensure that casinos open up in the safest way possible. Interestingly, anti-smoking advocates are now calling for the gambling venues in Las Vegas to finally make a major change.
Health Professionals Call for a Ban on Smoking in Las Vegas Casinos
Las Vegas is known for having some of the most relaxed laws in the United States. That includes allowing smoking inside major casino-resorts. In recent years, many health officials have called for an end to this law, claiming it puts casino staff and non-smoking gamblers at risk.
Many have pushed against the idea to ban smoking in Las Vegas casinos, though. As many know, Las Vegas is known for the freedom that it offers visitors. Some believe that prohibiting cigarette smoking inside casinos would result in a decrease in tourism.
Now may be the time this smoking is finally banned. A new coronavirus is spreading around the country that’s known to attack the human respiratory system. Health experts have already claimed that smokers are at a much greater risk of death if infected with Covid-19.
For obvious reasons, many feel that smoking should no longer be allowed inside casinos. Anne Macincone, an associate professor of medicine in the Center for Lung Biology at the University of Washington, claims smoking can help to spread viruses and doesn’t understand how it can be done with the mask protocol set in place.
“Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke can be respiratory irritants that can lead to coughing, and potentially spread of infection,” Macincone said.
Just about everyone agrees that allowing smoking in casinos causes health problems for staff and patrons. That’s more true now than ever. Don’t expect any of the city officials to stop this from happening anytime soon, though.
Is 2020 the Year That LV Casinos Prohibit Smoking?
It’s unlikely. As we’ve already mentioned, this isn’t the first time that many health officials have asked for a ban on smoking in Las Vegas casinos. Last year, reports surfaced that shows some of the health issues casino workers are suffering from simply from being inside these gaming venues.
That isn’t enough for casino officials to make a change. Historically speaking, a ban on smoking results in a serious loss of customers for casinos. Several casinos have prohibited smoking over the past few decades and almost all of them saw their revenue drop considerably.
Casino companies have serious power in cities like Las Vegas. It’s unlikely that any of the city officials will put an end to smoking without the blessing of these companies. Anything is possible, though.
We’re in the middle of a global pandemic and public safety is being considered now more than ever before. There’s a chance that casinos will recognize the risks that smoking presents and will decide to ban it. Some even feel casinos will have dedicated smoking areas, perhaps even contained in a single room.
The push to ban smoking in Las Vegas casinos continues. As of now, however, the major casino-resorts have not decided to make any changes. We’ll need to see how this situation plays out over the next few months.
if you're smoking in a public space, that means you're not wearing a mask.
i'm all for the ban...
When we visited casinos in Lake Charles, the tobacco was even more overwhelming than in Vegas, in my memory.
I'm for a ban.
DES MOINES, Iowa -- The risks facing health-care providers, retail staff and public service employees during the COVID-19 crisis have brought renewed focus on workplace safeguards.
In Iowa, there is a push to add protections for a certain class of hospitality workers.
The state's 2008 law that prohibits smoking in public places includes an exemption for casinos, which still can allow "lighting up" on gaming floors. Some venues, including all the states tribal casinos, have temporarily banned indoor smoking during COVID-19.
Health advocates say it's time for Iowa to institute a permanent ban.
Stacy Frelund, Iowa government relations director for the American Heart Association, said the longstanding concern has more urgency now.
"We have had casino workers in the past reach out to our coalition about having to be exposed to second-hand smoke," Frelund observed. "In this time that we're in right now, it only makes sense to provide health to all of our workers throughout the state."
Frelund noted they also want to protect non-smoking patrons at casinos. Her group is in talks with lawmakers to get a bill introduced this session that would amend the law.
In the past, state-licensed casinos have argued against such efforts, saying it would hurt their ability to attract customers, especially those near bordering states that also allow casino smoking.
But Frelund argued if casinos want to stay relevant, they should try to cater to a customer base that could keep their operations thriving in the long run.
"A lot of your younger population is accustomed to having smoke-free places," Frelund pointed out.
The Heart Association is also pushing for passage of a bill that would pave the way for e-cigarettes to be covered by the Smokefree Air Act.
Experts weigh in on the likelihood that Pennsylvania lawmakers would make coronavirus-caused smoke-free policies permanent beyond the pandemic.
When Pennsylvania lawmakers approved the Clean Indoor Air Act (CIAA) in 2008, placing an effective ban on smoking in public places and workplaces, the law left quite a few exceptions. Private clubs, cigar bars, and gaming floors at casinos in the state, for example, were granted exceptions from the ban. But today, if you visit any of the state’s 12 licensed gambling properties, you’ll find that they’re all smoke-free.
That’s because in July Gov. Tom Wolf and Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Rachel Levine signed an order requiring mandatory mask-wearing in any setting outside of one’s home to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Pulling down a mask to smoke in a public place was no exception. So, for the past three months, Pennsylvania’s casinos, which previously allowed smoking on up to 50 percent of their gaming floors, have voluntarily gone smoke-free.
Now, members of the Breathe Free Pennsylvania coalition are urging state lawmakers to make these smoke-free policies permanent even after COVID-19-related restrictions are lifted. The Breathe Free PA coalition leadership consists of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, organizations who are all pushing for policies that protect the health of patrons and employees in the state.
The smoking ban could be made permanent with the signing of House Bill 2298, an amendment proposed by State Rep. Dan Frankel. Frankel, a legislative supporter of Breathe Free PA, says the bill is designed to close loopholes in the Act that have put the health thousands of Pennsylvania’s hospitality workers at risk from long-term secondhand smoke exposure.
“Allowing smoking in casinos makes every one of those buildings less safe because smoking would require patrons to remove or improperly wear their masks,” Frankel explained during a recent, virtual Breath Free PA press conference. “While visitors could always choose to find tables that are less subject to secondhand smoke, employees are completely captive, and nobody should have to choose between a job and their health.”
Like any proposed law, a majority vote from both chambers of Congress will ultimately determine whether the bill makes it to Governor Wolf’s desk to sign.
Law and policy analyst from the Center for Public Health Law Research at Temple University, Sabrina Ruchelli, says Pennsylvania wouldn’t be the first state to make these kinds of changes to its policies around smoking and the fact that there is precedence in other states for amending laws like Pa.’s Clean Air Act, could make it somewhat easier to get the bill passed. According to Ruchelli, 27 states and D.C. have passed comprehensive smoking policies. Still, she says, the bill isn’t guaranteed to pass just because “other states are doing it this way.”
“Pennsylvania would be joining a technical majority,” Ruchelli explained. “The fact that 22 other states don’t possess comprehensive [smoking] policies definitely indicates that it’s clear that not everyone is in agreement about what should be covered under smoke-free laws, so it does not seem like it would be a straight walk in the park either.”
Frank Leone, director of Comprehensive Smoking Treatment Programs at the University of Pennsylvania says there are, however, other positive effects of enforcing a permanent, comprehensive smoking ban: it could encourage more smokers to quit. As Leone explains it, nicotine is one of few addictive substances that “do not rely on its own sensory experience in order to become addictive.” Meaning, someone could become addicted to nicotine somewhat haphazardly through environmental triggers; pulling the knob on a slot machine while having a smoke, for example, could trigger someone to want to have a smoke every time they engage in that behavior.
“The sights, sounds, and smells of smoking in a casino could trigger smoking behavior among people, so any effort to remove that would reduce the instinctive compulsion to smoke,” Leone said. “So in the long run, overall, [the smoking ban] could help people quit, not because it makes it harder for people to smoke, but because there would be fewer environmental signals encouraging them to do it.”
“These laws can also help to reduce the introduction of youths to smoking and de-normalize the culture of smoking by making it less acceptable, and help increase the chances of current smokers working to quit,” Ruchelli added.
House Bill 2298 was introduced in November 2019 and has not yet been scheduled for floor action.