In the U.S., there are more than 500 smokefree casinos and other gambling venues across 20 states, and in Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, along with a growing number of sovereign Tribes that have voluntarily made some casinos smokefree.
The casino industry now has a range of examples of how to successfully transition to a smokefree indoor air policy. Recent project developments and proposals in places like Ohio, New York City, Maryland, and Massachusetts show how the gaming industry, with some thoughtful planning, is able to make smokefree indoor air a non-issue.
Tip 1: Plan for outdoor smoking areas off the gaming floor and at logical transition points. This helps make it easy for people to step outside to light up without harming staff and fellow players in the process. For example, consider building on outdoor smoking areas as part of new construction or during renovations. This will help smooth the transition to smokefree indoor air. Casinos want to be welcoming to everyone. The appropriate place to smoke is outdoors and in ways that don’t harm other people.
Tip 2: Support strong smokefree laws. Smokefree laws are in the best interest of casino operators because they help create regional parity and normalcy on the issue. Rather than having to deal with the perceived concerns of going smokefree on a company by company basis, a law helps cover area competitors quickly. The more that cities, states, and Tribes adopt strong smokefree indoor air laws, the more it creates a regional norm. In most smokefree gaming states, there is very little media coverage of the smokefree issue because it is normal, successful, and simply taken for granted.
Tip 3: Rethink old assumptions. Gaming revenue is down more than 42% in Atlantic City since 2006 –without a smokefree law to blame for it. Atlantic City casinos were smokefree for 30 days in 2006, but the law was quickly rescinded. In hindsight, it’s clear that gaming revenue has been in a 7 year decline for reasons not related to smoking. Also, Illinois casinos went smokefree in 2008, during the global financial crisis. Gaming revenue declined temporarily, but revenues also went down across the board for the gaming industry as a result of the economic crisis. By contrast, Resorts World NYC is smokefree indoors and is raking in more than $600 million/year…without table games yet. Keep in mind that the tobacco companies fought hard to keep smoking in gaming venues and creates many of the economic myths on the issue.
Tip 4: Conduct surveys of players club members to assess primary factors for number/length of visits and spend levels. All the surveys we’ve seen show, not surprisingly, that indoor smoking isn’t a primary factor compared to bigger issues like economic recovery, regional market saturation (fewer dollars going to more properties), weather, and the price of gas.
Tip 5: It is important to cover the entire airspace. While patrons must be 18, 19 or 21 years of age (depending on your state) to gamble, casinos are often a main entertainment destination for families, especially in a casino community. In educational presentations to civic, health, and community groups around your city, be sure to stress the importance of a smokefree casino environment that covers the entire airspace, not just sections.
Nate Forbes, co-owner of the Horseshoe Casino in Cleveland, Ohio, speaking at a media event in Cleveland City Council chambers about the casino’s smokefree experience.