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Should smoking remain when casinos reopen?

Boston smokers place votes with cigarette butts
Posted at 5:36 PM, May 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-19 08:15:55-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Smoking while gambling is coming under scrutiny from one area doctor who believes the focus on health and safety could push casinos to think about going smoke free.

The ambiance of the casino floor in Las Vegas has always been known for gaming and cigarettes.

“Any kind of environmental toxin which includes second-hand smoke I think could potentially put you at risk for a respiratory illness,” Dr. Christina Madison of Roseman University, said.

She says smoking can create issues that create complications from COVID-19 which attacks a person’s respiratory system.

“Anything that damages the lung tissue. Anything that could potentially put you at risk for a respiratory pathogen is not a good idea,” Dr. Madison said.

Smoking wasn’t addressed by the Nevada Gaming Control Board in its reopening guidelines for casinos. UNLV professor and gaming historian David Schwartz isn’t surprised saying smoking has been so tied together with gaming. He says the reason for allowing smoking may be financial. Casinos that are smoke-free in other parts of the country haven’t been as successful.

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“The was a casino that opened in Atlantic City that opened with no smoking that didn’t do too well, but there could have been a lot of reasons for that,” he said.

Schwartz says any changes would depend on the comfort level of customers.

“They may not feel it’s a good idea to be breathing in other people’s smoke so that could impact for the locals and Strip casinos,” he said.

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Dr. Madison believes the focus on health and safety during the pandemic could give casinos license to go smoke-free.

“I think this is really going to help them to make that transition without as much pushback as I think they would have had otherwise,” she said.

Ina statement the Nevada Gaming Control Board said:

The Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act, codified at NRS 202.2483, prohibits smoking and vaping inside most indoor spaces in Nevada. Subsection 3(a) of NRS 202.2483 provides an exemption from the smoking ban for areas inside casinos in which gaming operations take place (gaming floor, poker rooms, race and sports book, etc.). Smoking and vaping are still allowed in these areas; however, a casino operator can designate separate rooms or areas within the establishment as nonsmoking or nonvaping. For example, many casinos now voluntarily offer smoke-free poker rooms.

Areas of casinos that are not in the gaming area are required to be smoke-free and vape-free. These areas include restaurants, bars, shopping malls, retail establishments, concert halls, theaters, convention areas, etc. Additionally, the Act now bans smoking and the use of e-cigarettes or vaping products in all areas of grocery and convenience stores, including gaming areas in these businesses.

As the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act is statutory provision, any prohibition on smoking in gaming areas of casinos would need to be first passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor. If such a change to NRS 202.2483 were to occur, the Gaming Control Board would surely enforce such a prohibition as part of its strict regulation of gaming operators in this State. The Board has received many public comment submissions regarding the public’s concern about smoking in casinos and how that may affect the health and safety of Nevadans and visitors when gaming operations are allowed to resume, and the Board keeps the Commission and all other relevant parties apprised of these comments.