NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


March 16, 2007

The days may be dwindling for one of the last holdouts for unfettered smokers' rights: casinos.  Next month, Atlantic City will make smoking off-limits on 75 percent of the gambling floor in each of its 11 casinos.  The casinos are currently excluded from a 2006 statewide smoking ban in bars, restaurants and other workplaces. Legislation for an outright ban is working its way through the New Jersey Legislature.

To some, puffing on a cigarette while gambling is like munching on a hot dog at a baseball game, comfortable habits that go hand in hand.  Smoking bans in workplaces or public spaces exist in 21 states and now casinos are starting to stamp out smoking, too.

  • Colorado's House of Representatives voted Feb. 28 to include casinos in an existing ban on smoking in bingo halls, dog tracks and most other indoor venues.
  • Rhode Island state Rep. Amy Rice, a Democrat, introduced a bill on March 1 to end a smoking ban exemption for gambling venues.
  • Bill's Casino Lake Tahoe in Stateline, Nev., went smoke-free in December, and the Tropicana Atlantic City casino is considering it
  • Lawmakers in Pennsylvania and Illinois are including casinos in proposed legislation to ban smoking.

Commercial casinos, which generated $30 billion in gambling revenue in 2005, are concerned that smoking bans could drive patrons to states where they can smoke or to tribal casinos not subject to local laws.

A study by a former gambling industry professor at the University of Louisville examined the impact of a 2002 smoking ban in Delaware.  It found that there was an average 15 percent decrease in betting at gambling venues.

Source: Charisse Jones, "Smokers take last drags as casinos crack down," USA Today, March 14, 2007.

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