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Organization urges gaming association to adopt casino smoking bans

A California-based organization that advocates for smoke-free casinos is asking the board of directors of the American Gaming Association to set a policy that casino companies reject COVID-19 relief money unless their buildings ban smoking.

In a two-page letter dated Thursday to AGA President and CEO Bill Miller, Cynthia Hallett, president and CEO of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, said the organization is asking that casino operators only take taxpayer dollars if they agree to adopt a smoke-free indoor policy.

The nonprofit lobbying organization said smoking increases the spread of COVID-19 and endangers casino employees and other patrons.

A spokesman for the AGA said the association would have no comment on the letter. The organization’s board of directors is scheduled to meet virtually on Friday.

In the letter, Hallett cited Park MGM’s recent decision to ban smoking — the first major Las Vegas resort to do so — and said more than 1,000 casinos across the country, many of them tribal operations, have indoor no-smoking policies.

Casinos that haven’t implemented smoking bans have said they fear a drop in revenue if smokers were banned from their properties. But Hallett said that’s been disproven in several states.

“In states with permanent smoke-free policies, such as Maryland and Ohio, the industry is experiencing year-over-year revenue increases, despite operating at reduced capacity,” the letter said.

“Casinos in states that were forced to abide by a state-imposed, temporary smoke-free policy in order to reopen, such as Pennsylvania, have seen revenues remain relatively stable compared to the previous year, especially considering they have been operating at significantly reduced capacity, and the smoke-free policy has helped to keep 99 percent of gaming employees COVID-free.”

The Nevada Resort Association, which represents more than 70 companies statewide, said its members already are in compliance with the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act and offer a range of non-smoking amenities.

“Our members cater to the diversity of our guests’ preferences by offering both non-smoking and smoking environments where allowed by law,” an association spokeswoman said in an email.

“The resort industry has always placed a high priority on air quality and has invested heavily in advanced technology throughout their properties that circulates fresh air and removes smoke and odors. As part of their ongoing assessment of the latest health and safety protocols, they have reviewed their (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems and have enacted additional measures to maximize the exchange of fresh air and have increased the frequency of air filter replacement and system cleaning.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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