Radio Commentary

September 3, 1997

Casinos and Smoking

he proposed settlement in the tobacco industry mega-lawsuit includes one provision that should interest a great many Nevadans. As the agreement is currently drawn, casinos would be exempted from a nationwide ban on smoking in public places. From our state’s perspective, that’s a good idea. The Las Vegas and Reno-Sparks Chambers of Commerce commissioned a study on what a smoking ban in casinos might do. It found that the casino industry could lose $1.9 billion in revenue in the next five years alone. State sales tax receipts could be $50 million less, and as many as 30,000 jobs could be lost in the first year of a ban. The study’s author predicts that a smoking ban in casinos would prompt customers to leave tables and slot machines for 12 minutes every hour in order to light up. That would amount to a huge loss of gambling time since an estimated 33 percent of all gamblers are smokers, and 30 percent of all nonsmoking patrons are married to smokers.

Currently, the proposed settlement allows smoking to continue in casinos, bingo parlors, prisons, restaurants, bars, private clubs and hotel rooms. No one can predict what the final agreement will say, but here’s a modest idea: why not let individuals decide where smoking is allowed? Instead of a nationwide ban, maybe the federal government could trust individual business owners and customers to set smoking restrictions, if any. Nonsmoking casinos—and other businesses—would attract the anti-tobacco customers, while no-limits smoking establishments would allow smokers a place to congregate with their own.u


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