Problem Gambling Council: Smoke-Free Casinos Might Promote Responsible Play

Posted on: September 29, 2022, 03:21h. 

Last updated on: September 29, 2022, 02:57h.

Smoke-free casinos might be better suited to promote responsible gambling than their smoking counterparts. That’s according to a national nonprofit committed to minimizing gambling-related harms.

smoke-free casino smoking NCPG Atlantic City
The National Council on Problem Gambling says smoke-free casinos might better promote responsible gaming. But indoor casino smoking in Atlantic City and elsewhere across the country remains. (Image:

In a recent letter addressed to the New Jersey Senate and General Assembly, National Council on Problem Gambling Executive Director Keith Whyte encouraged an investigation. He said state lawmakers should further examine whether smoke-free casinos experience fewer instances of irresponsible gambling. Two bills, each seeking to end casino smoking in Atlantic City, have been introduced to the New Jersey Legislature.

Research shows that there is a correlation between smoking frequency and gambling severity,” Whyte said.

However, Whyte said more research on the matter is needed. But of the few studies conducted on the issue, Whyte said an association between indoor smoking and problem gambling has been detected.

Past Research

Whyte said a 2004 study from La Trobe University in Australia found gamblers have higher tobacco use rates than the general public. The study also claimed a linear relationship between gambling severity, smoking frequency, and nicotine dependency.

The NCPG head also cited a 2006 New Zealand Health Ministry probe that concluded that 58% of problem gamblers are daily smokers. And a 2002 review regarding gambling behaviors found that gamblers who smoked daily gamble more often and for more money than non-daily smokers.

NCPG continues to monitor research in this area and hopes to see further development. However, given this association between smoking and problem gambling, NCPG believes that making casinos smoke-free is likely to reduce the incidence of problem gambling and improve public health,” Whyte concluded to the New Jersey Legislature.

Atlantic City’s gaming industry is amid a war of words regarding the ongoing allowance of indoor smoking. Casino workers who seek a clean air workplace began mounting a public campaign in July 2021. That’s after the state’s health order amid the pandemic that temporarily prohibited casino smoking expired, and gamblers were allowed to light back up.

“Casino Employees Against Smoking’s Effects” (CEASE) is leading the crusade to convince state lawmakers to extinguish the casino indoor smoking loophole. Their fight has been well-received in Trenton, as most of the General Assembly and Senate now support making the casinos smoke-free.

However, the introduced bills have been mothballed in their respective chambers by Democratic leaders. They have heeded calls from the local casino union not to act on the measures. Unite Here Local 54 has largely sided with the Atlantic City casinos in their belief that ending casino smoking would hurt gaming revenue by as much as 25% and could cost 2,500 jobs.

Smoke-Free Casinos

As of September, there are more than 1,000 casinos and gaming properties in the US that offer fully smoke-free floors. That’s according to tracking compiled by Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights (ANR), which keeps tabs on tribal and commercial casinos and their smoking policies.

“Gaming properties” includes pari-mutuel horse racetracks, off-track betting facilities, jai alai frontons, racinos, dog tracks, and card rooms.

Many tribal casinos have gone smoke-free since the pandemic. A report published at the 2021 Indian Gaming Association Convention and Tradeshow revealed that approximately 79% of gamblers favor a smoke-free casino.