Mesquite, Nevada Voters Want Smoke-Free Casinos, But Can Gaming Business Survive?

Posted on: September 6, 2016, 03:00h. 

Last updated on: September 6, 2016, 07:54h.

In Mesquite, Nevada, voters are ready to ban indoor smoking at all places of business. At least, that’s what one new city poll indicates in the small town of fewer than 18,000 residents that sits about 80 miles outside of Las Vegas.

According to a poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, a Virginia-based research firm, 62 percent of Mesquite residents support a local ordinance to completely ban smoking indoors. That would change the current law that continues to permit smoking at casinos, nightclubs, and some bars.

Mesquite, Nevada casinos smoke-free smoking ban
Smoking on gambling floors could soon be prohibited inside Mesquite, Nevada casinos, after a new poll shows residents want clean air inside all business establishments. (Image: Danny Drake/Press of Atlantic City)

Nevada passed the Clean Indoor Air Act in 2006, and made smoking inside workplaces and public buildings illegal.

But the clean air law included a carve-out for the state’s massive casino industry. And the Mesquite Citizens for Clean Indoor Air group now wants to change that.

“Everyone deserves to breathe clean indoor air. No one should have to sacrifice their health for a paycheck,” the coalition working to amend the city law states.

With support seemingly present, the Mesquite City Council could introduce an ordinance to outlaw all indoor smoking at places of business and implement the new statute in as little as 60 days.

“It’s not up to the voters to decide. It’s up to the city leaders,” Christine Picior, a coalition member, told The Spectrum.

Smoke-Free Impact

The small city of Mesquite sits northeast of Las Vegas on the Nevada and Arizona border. The historic town relies heavily on tourism, using its casinos and pioneering history to lure visitors coming to and from Sin City on the I-15 interstate.

It remains unclear whether a casino smoking ban would bring new bettors to Mesquite, or turn away faithful customers. But it’s likely that local residents, who also gamble, as well as casino workers, are more interested in their own long-term health these days.

In Macau, a similar crusade to ban smoking wasn’t very successful. Though smoking is confined to designated lounges, workers complained patrons often fail to comply with the mandate and continue smoking on the general casino floor. In China (and Asia generally), the West’s campaign that links cigarettes and cancer doesn’t seem to have taken off much, if at all, and many citizens are still heavy smokers in that country.

Last May, two lobbying organizations acting on behalf of casino employees called on the resorts to enact a one-day citywide indoor smoking ban on floors, smoking lounges, and VIP rooms. But with one in two Chinese citizens over the age of 15 reportedly a regular smoker, the casino companies didn’t budge.

No Hurray for Harrah’s

If Mesquite opts to ban smoking from its casinos, it wouldn’t be the first city to enforce such policies. Smoking is banned in all the major poker rooms in Las Vegas, though smoking on main casino floors remains prevalent.

Down south in New Orleans, however, city officials extinguished all butts in casinos as of April 2015. Exiling smokers to outdoor “smoking lounges,” aka metal benches, caused revenues to fall, according to Harrah’s New Orleans. The city’s only land-based casino said slot revenue fell 17 percent in the year following the new ordinance.

Proponents of clean indoor air says Harrah’s is using the smoking ban as an excuse, and point to riverboat casinos in other parts of Louisiana experiencing similar revenue declines outside the smoking ban.

Perhaps Pennsylvania has the smoking predicament solved.

The Keystone State’s 12 casinos are permitted to designate up to 50 percent of their floor for smoker-friendly gaming. Dining areas are 100 percent smoke-free, as they are in Las Vegas and most cities across America these days.