years of actively opposing smoking bans, the casino
industry's primary lobbying organization is backing
off as a wave of states pass indoor smoking prohibitions
that include casinos.
the mid-1990s, the American Gaming Association has pushed
for national building code standards accommodating tobacco
smoke, arguing that prohibiting smoking would be bad
fighting smoking bans "is an uphill battle,"
says Judy Patterson, executive director of the American
states that exempted casinos from no-smoking laws, such
as Colorado and New Jersey, reconsidered those exemptions
the following year, she notes.
against smoking bans at a national level has become
nearly impossible for the association, she said.
the momentum is with the health groups," Patterson
said. "This became one of those issues that could
not be handled industrywide."
of the association's individual casino members are softening
their positions against smoking bans, saying they would
support a nationwide, federal ban - especially if it
included tribal casinos. With such a blanket prohibition,
the logic goes, no one casino could benefit by allowing
smoking - and drawing smokers from a non smoking casino.
American Gaming Association was among just a few business
trade organizations that opposed a short-lived proposal
in the 1990s by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration
to completely ban smoking in the workplace.
association, courted by the tobacco industry, is one
of a dwindling number of smoking ban opponents. Even
restaurant and bar associations, many of whose members
already operate under anti-smoking laws, have muted
their opposition to smoking bans.
is moving to specifically ban smoking in casinos, while
Illinois is expected to become the biggest non tribal
casino state to approve a total smoking ban. In Atlantic
City, a new law bans smoking in 75 percent of a casino.
the gaming association hasn't lobbied at the state level
for fear of taking sides among competing members. While
most casinos oppose smoking bans in principle, a casino
company operating in one state, for instance, might
favor a smoking ban in a neighboring state where a competitor
is located, to pick up its smoking customers.
association hasn't lobbied for a national smoking ban
because not all members want it, Patterson said. The
Bush administration would likely oppose it anyway, while
health groups - having more success with local ordinances
- worry that federal rules could preempt more stringent
local laws, she said .
significant blow to the association's efforts to allow
casino smoking occurred in 2005 when a national advisory
group that sets air-ventilation standards concluded
that no filtration system can effectively remove the
health risks associated with second-hand smoke.
casinos have voluntarily banned smoking. The newest
casinos are installing more effective - and costly -
ventilation systems to minimize complaints about smokers.
of those systems attempts to contain wafting cigarette
smoke by creating curtains of streaming air. It's one
of the systems being considered by several casinos,
including the centerpiece resort at MGM Mirage's $7.4
billion CityCenter in Las Vegas.
advocates say the association's shifting stance is the
clearest sign yet that casinos, a last bastion for smokers,
are beginning to cut their losses.
casinos have realized they are on the losing side of
this, that the claims of economic disaster aren't true
and that they don't want to be burning up chips on this
issue because it could hurt them on other issues that
are more important to them," said Stanton Glantz,
a professor of medicine and director of the Center for
Tobacco Control Research and Education at University
of California, San Francisco.
studies in several states have shown that smoking bans
don't hurt business over the long term, casinos and
many industry watchers say bans - at least in the short
term, which is all the evidence available - keep gamblers
from their games or prompt them to gamble where smoking
think it is very clear that smoking bans in the short
term negatively impact play," Deutsche Bank bond
analyst Andrew Zarnett said. "But long term it
won't impact business because we believe that most of
American society will be nonsmoking, the playing field
will become level again and casinos will learn how to
accommodate smokers. It may be adding outside areas
that have heating lamps and benches instead of having
to walk outside the casino, walk into a corner and stand
behind a pole."
Steinberg, a stock analyst with Morgan Joseph, said
the industry's stance on smoking is changing as their
customers' attitudes change.
the first time, more than half of the population is
living in a place where smoking is banned," Steinberg
said. "This is something smokers are getting used
to. Initially it was having an impact (on business)
but as you have more businesses going smoke-free, it's
not as much of a deterrent as it was before. It certainly
didn't kill the airline industry."