ashless, they all fall down?
Arnold M. Knightly, Las Vegas Gaming Wire
VEGAS, Nev. - Gaming companies would rather not
discuss the prospect of Nevada casinos being forced to go
nonsmoking in the near future.
local gaming company spokeswoman said when asked about the
possibility that "the company wasn't going to deal
the writing may be on the wall.
November, voters passed the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act,
which banned smoking in most public spaces, including restaurants,
lounges and bars with food service, retail and convention
areas as well as hotel lobbies. The change didn't affect
casino floors, nightclubs and stand-alone bars without food
casinos exemption may one day drift away like so much smoke,
Spectrum Gaming Group gaming analyst Joseph Weinert suggested.
think Nevada, like every other state-regulated gaming jurisdiction,
is a matter of when not if," said Weinert.
Lake Tahoe went smoke-free in December and now promotes
itself as "Tahoe's Only Non-Smoking Casino."
casinos have been tried in Nevada before. In 1991, the then-economically
troubled, now-closed Silver City casino banned smoking.
The decision to turn Bill's into the state's only current
nonsmoking casino was also one more of economics than health
was a decision made locally just to try it out and try to
rejuvenate the business over at Bill's," said John
Packer, spokesman for Harrah's Entertainment in Lake Tahoe.
is one of three gaming properties Harrah's Entertainment
owns in the Northern Nevada border region. Packer said that
Bill's had been struggling financially compared with the
company's other two properties there, Harrah's Lake Tahoe
and Harveys Lake Tahoe.
a casino-only establishment, has 18,000 square feet of casino
space and no real restaurant, except for a Subway sandwich
shop. Management felt the property needed to try different
ideas to lure customers. So the casino went smoke-free and
added single-deck blackjack, 20 times odds on craps and
a piano bar.
traffic has increased at Bill's, Packer said, but he added
that it would be hard to single out nonsmoking as the sole
reason why. He also said people shouldn't see Bill's smoke-free
casino as a test program that could spread to other for
Harrah's Entertainment properties throughout the state.
floors are still a haven for smokers, but a study last year
by the University of Nevada, Reno found that about only
one in five gamblers in Nevada smokes.
Pritsos, chairman of the university's nutrition department,
said he undertook the study to learn how many gamblers smoke.
you start talking about a smoking ban, the gaming lobbyists
come out say '70 percent of our clientele smoke,' "
Pritsos said. "I've been before the state Legislature
and heard them make that statement. I thought it was important
to find out what the real numbers were."
study, which surveyed 17,723 gamblers throughout the state
from August 2006 through October 2006, found 21.5 percent
of gamblers in Las Vegas smoke, while 22.6 percent smoke
in Reno-Sparks and 17 percent smoke in Lake Tahoe.
for the Las Vegas casinos was gathered during a three-day
period in August split between Strip and off-Strip properties.
The study found that 20.3 percent of gamblers smoke at Strip
properties while 26.3 percent of gamblers smoke off-Strip.
said he had expected a number between 30 percent and 40
percent, but added that the study's figures are near the
general United States population average of 20.9 percent.
Pritsos said he hasn't received any comments from the gaming
industry, but the state Legislature has asked for a copy.
study comes as more state legislatures around the country
grapple with smoke-free casinos.
Illinois Senate on March 29 approved a statewide smoking
ban that would extend to the riverboat gambling halls and
racetracks. If the state House approves the measure in May,
the ban would take effect Jan. 1. An amendment was introduced
proposing a three-year phase-in for the casinos and racetracks,
but it was not adopted.
March, Colorado lawmakers amended a House bill extending
the state smoking ban to casinos by pushing the effective
date to July 1, 2008. The bill was approved by the Senate
but must return to the House for consideration.
11 casinos in Atlantic City have until April 15 to comply
with a new law that requires 75 percent of the gaming floor
to be nonsmoking.
Entertainment and Columbia Sussex Corp. are building smoking
lounges for their properties but fear the properties will
take an economic hit.
said some gaming executives worry that if smoking is illegal
in casinos in one area, customers will go elsewhere to gamble
really concerns the industry, beyond a direct economic hit,
is the uneven playing field," Weinert said. "If
Las Vegas operators knew the moment they went smoke-free
that the Indian casinos in California and Arizona also went
smoke-free, I think they would be less concerned."
Entertainment spokeswoman Debbie Munch said her company
lets patrons request a smoke-free table at any of its eight
local properties. But a public relations manager overseeing
two of the properties didn't know of the policy.
of the poker rooms and some bingo rooms in Las Vegas are
asked about the smoking issue and what the future could
hold for Nevada gaming, spokeswomen at Station Casinos and
Wynn Las Vegas pointed out their latest properties have
state-of-the-art ventilation systems that minimize the effect
of smoking patrons on nonsmoking ones.
studies seem to rebut such a claim. The American Society
of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning released
a position paper in August 2005 saying "no ... engineering
approaches, including current and advanced dilution ventilation
or air-cleaning technologies, have been demonstrated or
should be relied on to control health risks from (environmental
a June study published by U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona
said, "Restrictions on smoking can control exposures
effectively, but technical approaches involving air cleaning
or greater exchange of indoor with outdoor air cannot."
said it would surprise him if smoke-free casinos in Nevada
the size of the gaming industry in Nevada relative to any
other industry, I would not be surprised to see Nevada be
the last to take this up," Weinert said. "Certainly
every gaming executive recognizes they will be smoke-free
at some point. But they have a fiduciary duty to, in the
meantime, to maximize their revenues."