Smoke-Free Casino Advocates Make Their Presence Known at Global Gaming Expo

Posted on: October 6, 2021, 06:58h. 

Last updated on: October 7, 2021, 10:19h.

Nevada is one of 10 states where gamblers inside a commercial casino can smoke freely across the gaming floor. Anti-smoking advocates say change is long overdue.

smoke-free casinos G2E Las Vegas
An editorial cartoon published in July in New Jersey’s Star-Ledger is being used by anti-smoking advocates who say it’s time to end casino smoking. A press conference was held this week at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas. (Image: Star-Ledger)

The gaming industry has gathered in Las Vegas this week for the Global Gaming Expo (G2E). The annual trade show — which was postponed in 2020 because of the pandemic — brings together industry stakeholders and professionals at The Venetian Expo.

The Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights (ANR) is in town, too. The group, seeking to eliminate indoor smoking throughout casinos, held a press conference yesterday at G2E. Advocates spoke loudly to the need to extinguish indoor smoking.

“We know better, let’s be better,” declared Nicole Vitola, a table games dealer at the Borgata Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City.

Patrons are allowed to sit down and smoke at the tables. The dealer is unable to walk away, turn around, or even wave the smoke away without facing disciplinary action from management,” Vitola told the media in attendance. “Many casinos have gone smoke-free since the pandemic. But too many continue to put profits over health, even as we’ve seen the casinos thrive by operating smoke-free.”

G2E typically attracts nearly 30,000 attendees each year. But with coronavirus concerns and international travel restrictions remaining, American Gaming Association (AGA) President Bill Miller expects that number to be lower this week.

Coalition Forming

The ANR has been at the forefront of the push to make all casinos smoke-free in the United States. The organization has held several recent rallies, including one in late June on the Atlantic City Boardwalk. They are urging the public to tell their lawmakers to close the clean-air loophole that continues to allow casino smoking in New Jersey.

The ANR event yesterday detailed reports of casino workers contracting serious diseases, such as cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The workers say they’ve never personally consumed tobacco products

Other coalitions are emerging to work with and support the ANR nationwide effort. A new group called Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects (CEASE) attended Tuesday’s G2E conference, as did Smoke-Free Truckee Meadows.

“I understand change is hard, but it’s time for casinos to go smoke-free. We’ve seen so many states, a couple of cities, and a lot of tribes that have adopted smoke-free casino policies and laws, and people still come,” said ANR President Cynthia Hallett.

Union Support

The Culinary Union wasn’t in attendance in an official capacity during the ANR meeting yesterday. But the largest casino workers trade union lent its support to making gaming floors free of harmful smoke.

It’s long overdue for an entirely smoke-free casino in Las Vegas, and the Culinary Union is completely supportive,” the union said a statement to NBC News 3 Las Vegas.

ANR’s Hallett took issue with G2E, in that worker health has largely been left out. Yet it features events on numerous aspects of the gaming industry.

“Absent from the programming is a focus on casino worker health and safety,” Hallett declared. “We don’t expect to hear much about the unreasonable choice too many gaming workers are forced to make every day. And that’s a choice between their health and a paycheck.”