Nonprofit Organization Lobbies for Smoking Ban in US Casinos that Receive COVID-19 Relief

The American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation (ANR), a nonprofit organization from California, insists on the introduction of a smoking ban across gambling venues that receive coronavirus relief funds. Yesterday, the organization sent a two-page letter addressed to the Chief Executive Officer and President of the American Gaming Association (AGA), Mr. Ben Miller.

According to Cynthia Hallett, who chairs the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, landbased gambling operations should benefit from the relief funds only on condition they consent to prohibit smoking on their premises. Smoking endangers both staff members and customers as it increases the risk of spreading the virus, the nonprofit organization insisted.

The Gaming Association is yet to comment on the demands outlined in the letter, an AGA spokesperson said. A virtual meeting of the board of directors is scheduled for today. The president of the ANR Foundation wrote in her letter more venues should follow the example of Park MGM.

Park MGM Banned Smokers in September

Park MGM became the first casino resort in Las Vegas to prohibit smoking. When the venue reopened toward the end of September, it announced on its website smokers are no longer welcome on its premises. A smoking ban was also enforced in the NoMad luxury hotel, which is part of the huge complex.

But Park MGM is by no means the only gambling operation to say no to smoking. There are over a thousand other gaming halls across the United States, some of which operated by indigenous tribes, to prohibit indoor smoking, Cynthia Hallett said in the letter.

Many gambling operators are still reluctant to enforce permanent smoking bans, however. They fear driving smokers away from their floors will cause a dent in the revenue they generate. But ANR’s president begs to differ. Hallett insists such claims have already been refuted in several other states.

She cited Ohio and Maryland as prime examples. Both states are known for their permanent non-smoking policies. Hallett emphasized gambling profits in such states have actually seen a year-over-year increase despite the fact the venues operated at a lower capacity.

Casinos Already Offer Smoke-Free Amenities, NRA Insists

In other states like Pennsylvania, where operators were forced to comply with temporary non-smoking policies after reopening, gambling revenue remained almost the same compared to 2019, the ANR letter said. These policies have also prevented 99% of the gaming staff from becoming infected with the coronavirus.

The Nevada Resorts Association (NRA), the advocacy voice of over seventy companies from around the Silver State, does not consider the smoking ban necessary. The NRA insisted casino resorts already operate in line with the provisions of the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act by giving customers a choice from various smoke-free amenities.

A spokesperson for the NRA commented in an email air quality has always been a top priority of the casino resort sector in the state. Gambling operators have poured considerable amounts of money into high-end technologies that eliminate smoke and other odors and ensure the circulation of fresh air on their premises. Extra measures have been adopted in light of the coronavirus pandemic to augment the exchange of fresh air. Air filters are replaced more frequently, the spokesperson said.

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