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Shareholders of another Strip casino company reject smoke-free plan

Updated June 14, 2024 - 4:06 pm

Caesars Entertainment shareholders solidly rejected a proposal to study the economic effects of smoke-free casinos, the last of three recent efforts to pursue the policy through publicly traded companies.

Public health and labor advocates put forward an effort to get the Reno-based, nationally dominant gaming company to commission and disclose a report on potential cost savings from implementing a smoke-free policy at its 52 U.S. properties. The Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation and health care provider Trinity Health were behind the proposal that was voted on during the Caesars’ annual shareholders meeting Tuesday.

About 80 percent of votes cast were against the proposal, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Friday.

Shareholders of two other companies with Las Vegas ties — Rhode Island-based Bally’s Corp. and Boyd Gaming — rejected the same proposal in their respective annual meetings in May.

All three companies counseled against the proposals in proxy statements. Caesars told its shareholders it complies with local and state indoor smoking laws and doesn’t believe the report “would be an effective use of company resources.”

“Determining the smoking policy for our properties is a complex business decision and we believe our current policies strike the appropriate balance in appealing to both smoking and non-smoking customers,” the company’s Board of Directors wrote in an April proxy statement.

Despite the rejection, proponents said they were encouraged by the support for the first-time proposal. They plan to bring it back next year.

Paula Larson-Schusster, president of United Auto Workers Local 3555 and a dealer at the Flamingo, said she attended the shareholder meeting in Reno this week and was encouraged by the 18.9 percent of support.

“This is a forward move,” said Larson-Schusster, whose organization represents about 3,000 dealers and casino floor workers locally. “(Companies are) not giving up the fight. This was the first step to make awareness in such a way that stockholders realize that this is not going to devalue their product. It’s actually going to make it more valuable.”

Smoke-free casino advocates are seeking out different routes to close Clean Indoor Air Act loopholes that exempt casinos and bars in Nevada and other states. The corporate proposals come months after a court challenge with similar goals was filed in New Jersey in April. Also that month, a poll of Nevada voters, commissioned by the Nevada Tobacco Control and Smoke-free Coalition, found 58 percent said they would support banning smoking in casinos.

Contact McKenna Ross at mross@reviewjournal.com. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on X.

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