Gambling conference hears reports on smoking in casinos
STATELINE (AP) – Several reports on smoking in casinos, being presented this week at an international conference on gambling, provide ammunition to both advocates and opponents of smoking restrictions in the clubs.
Some of the documents presented at the 13th International Conference on Gambling & Risk-Taking focus on health hazards of cigarette smoke in resorts, while others deal with the impact of smoking restrictions on casino revenues.
While the air in a club might be cleaner, there’s also evidence of slumping revenues because gamblers who smoke may spend less time at the card and dice tables and slot machines when restrictions are imposed.
“A lot of people who gamble are self-abusing,” said William Eadington, director of the Institute for the Study of Gambling & Commercial Gaming that organized the conference. “They like to smoke, drink and stay out too late.”
The institute is at the University of Nevada, Reno, and one of the reports came from researchers led by a UNR department head that concluded there’s a direct link between exposure to secondhand smoke in the workplace and damage to employees’ DNA.
The study detailed by Chris Pritsos, head of UNR’s nutrition department, said casino floor workers are exposed to four times the amount of such smoke than any other work force group – and Pritsos says increased DNA damage means a higher risk of heart disease and cancer.
Also presented was a report by research economist Michael Pakko showing that casinos in Delaware have lost nearly $100 million a year as a result of that state’s passage of a smoke-free law, and the state in turn is losing millions of dollars in tax revenues.
Pakko said his study suggests “consumer flight” by gamblers who smoke to other venues in the region where they can light up.
Another report from two professors from the University of Louisville and University of Kentucky, on the impact of the Delaware ban at racinos – race tracks that also have slot machines – showed a big decrease in slot machine action at some of the racinos.
That finding clashed with a paper from Karen Blumenfeld, head of a group fighting pollution from smoking, that said there wasn’t the predicted economic loss at another Delaware racino.
Another paper, from a researcher at the University of Sydney in Australia, reviewed a partial smoking ban in casinos in Victoria and concluded that some people may take a break from gambling to go outside to smoke – but they still gamble. That report also said there may be a long-term decline in average spending on slots, but no abrupt drop.
The casino industry generally has opposed anti-smoking measures and instead favors improving air filtering technology.
The industry also has challenged an initiative that may be on the November ballot in Nevada, depending on the outcome of a pending court dispute.
The Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act would forbid smoking in public places where children are present, including restaurants, grocery stores, convenience stores, retail stores, video arcades and government buildings. It would not ban smoking in casinos, but would forbid lighting up in restaurants and shops inside casino resorts.
A less restrictive ballot measure backed by the gambling industry, called the Responsibly Protect Nevadans from Second-Hand Smoke Act, would allow smoking in slot machine sections of grocery and convenience stores and in designated areas of bars and restaurants restricted to adults age 21 and older.
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