Group rallies for smoke-free casinos

LAS VEGAS - A local group is demanding casinos stop allowing smoking for the sake of their employees.

Dealers, gamblers, and union members rallied outside the Sands Expo Tuesday to advocate for smoke-free gambling floors.

Experts say it will be a tough battle to try and remove smoking because it all comes down to money -- banning smoke could hurt revenues.

Holding anti-smoking sings, about 20 casino dealers and advocates gathered outside the Sands Expo and Convention Center.

"Our coworkers are dying from secondhand smoke," said Cynthia Falls, Transport Workers Union Local 721. "I have 100 coworkers of mine at a Wynn property that have had cancer, over 50 have died."

They are targeting gaming executives who are in town for a convention and trying to win their support to ban smoking inside casinos.

"We're fed up with having to breathe cigarette smoke every time we walk into a casino or cigar smoke," said Stephanie Steinberg, chairwoman, Smoke Free Gaming of America. "Over 800 casinos and racetracks are non-smoking in other states and these very same gaming companies that are here in Nevada, are also operating smoke free in other states." 

Some of the states and cities that have banned smoking inside casinos include Illinois, Iowa, Delaware and New Orleans.

But experts say gaming profits have taken a hit. 

'The negatives would be that in every jurisdiction where they have banned smoking, the win has gone down, the revenues have gone down," said David Schwartz, Center for Gaming Research, UNLV. 

According to a study by UNLV, Delaware gaming revenue declined anywhere from 8.6 to 15. 8 percent from 1997 to 2005.

The losses were even bigger in Illinois at about 22 percent from 1997 to 2008.

Experts say that would make Nevada state leaders think twice before approving a smoking ban.

"There's a lot of policy questions from the state too because this will impact the state's fiscal picture," Schwartz said

But employees claim casinos are only catering to a small percentage of patrons who smoke.

"Eighty percent of gamblers do not smoke," Steinberg said.

Advocates say they've been fighting to get rid of smoking inside casinos for eight years. They have made some gains. Smoking was banned in restaurants in 2006.

 


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