Cigarette smoking, banned indoors for most of America, remains a topic of conversation among Las Vegas casino owners.
The relationship the city of Las Vegas has with normal standards of morality can best be described in the city’s slogan: “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas.”
After reversing course on an attempt several years ago to turn the city into a family vacation destination, Las Vegas has just expanded its status as an adult playground, as casinos turn into entertainment venues with gambling on the side.
But there is one vice some members of the Las Vegas community are trying to eliminate: cigarette smoking.
Multiple sites within the city have banned smoking, although the gambling rooms still allow it. In fact, many casinos have opened smoke-free side rooms for gamblers who wish to avoid cigarette smoke. At the same time, most poker rooms in Las Vegas are now smoke-free.
This spring, the Westgate Las Vegas instituted a no-smoking policy in its sports book, one of the largest in Las Vegas. Smoking is only allowed at the bar and in the slot machine rooms.
Still, most casinos still allow smoking in a city that has tried to battle its smoking environment for years.
According to the Washington Post, Nevada claimed the title of smokiest state in the nation in 1999, with 31.5 percent of its residents identifying as smokers. That percentage dropped to 16.9 percent by 2014 after a voter initiative in 2006 banned public smoking. That ban included gaming areas in restaurants, stores and gas stations.
But not in casinos.
The power of casinos is impossible to overstate. Casino operators believe smoking promotes gambling, and as a result do what they can to prevent a ban on smoking and a ban on smoking would see a steep drop in gambling revenues.
“They (casinos) are very influential,’’ said Maria Azzarelli, the Southern Nevada Health District tobacco control program coordinator to the Washington Post. “It’s very hard to fight against all that power.”
According to a 2014 report by Deutsche Bank, a ban on smoking in Nevada could mean a drop of 7.5 percent in gaming during its first year. The study pointed out that gaming fell 11.3 percent in Delaware following a smoking ban in 2002, and when the state of Illinois banned smoking in its casinos in 2007, gaming fell 20.9 percent.
Psychological studies have shown that smokers tend to gamble more often and gamble more money and have a lower control over their gambling. Furthermore, casinos say gamblers forced to go outside to smoke would affect the “trance’’ state gamblers fall into, allowing them to reconsider their gambling decisions after taking a smoking break.
Of course, there is a health issue involved. The negative effects of second-hand smoke are well-documented, and non-smoking gamblers can suffer harm from sitting in a casino with smokers.
“I just could not stand the smoke in Las Vegas,’’ said Stephanie Steinberg, founder of the nonprofit group Smoke-Free Gaming in America. “I would talk to dealers and ask them ‘How do you handle this?’ They would say ‘We can’t stand it.’ Many would tell me about a litany of health concerns, from heart disease and asthma to having part of a lung removed.”
Steinberg said only 20 percent of Las Vegas gamblers smoke, and the 80 percent that do not smoke can be put off by the conditions inside a casino where smoking is allowed.
Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for www.nba.com. He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.
In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.
McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.
McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy Buffett and all things Disney.