Call for Smoke Ban
One of the most successful lobbying groups in California has been the Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights. This is a group that fights for regulations against tobacco smoking in all phases of life. Whether this is banning smoking from apartments, restaurants, public spaces, or an increase in the tax on smoking, it is most likely that the Americans for Nonsmoker’s Rights are behind the lobbying.
In California, this organization has made massive strides by getting many cities and counties to have much more strict laws on tobacco smoking in public spaces, cars, and apartments. However, now this organization has taken aim against casinos.
Tribal casinos are probably one of the last open spaces in California where smoking is allowed. Many states and tribal casinos throughout the United States have already banned smoking. Recently, one of Las Vegas’s biggest casinos, Park MGM, banned smoking. This was noted in the open letter that was posted to Twitter by Smokefree Casinos, originally sent by The Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights.
The letter does focus on how COVID, allegedly, can be easily transmitted by tobacco smoking, and to continue to allow smoking at these casinos is putting patrons at risk. The organization then makes the bold claim that casinos who do allow smoking on their floors should not be allowed to benefit from Covid-19 relief money.
Going after the wallet of these tribal casinos is the way to make a change, and this was a strategically timed letter by the lobby to the American Gaming Association in an attempt to leverage the current Covid-19 situation. It is clear that the Americans for Nonsmoker’s Rights want to make this ban at casinos on tobacco a permanent deal. However, it is using the spread of Covid as the excuse and the relief money as a threat.
While it can be argued whether this is unfair or just normal cut-throat lobbying, it is interesting that casinos are so scared of banning smoking. The letter does point to quite a few good points about Pennsylvania, which initiated a smoke-free temporary law on casinos. In the state, Pennsylvania did not see any revenue decrease with this decision.
Why Casinos Do Not Want to Ban Smoking
While it is obviously the fear of losing consumers and revenue that is stopping the casinos from just moving towards a smoke-free betting floor, it might be time for some kind of progressive movement in that direction. It very well could be the case that smoking hurts revenue in that bettors with asthma or lung conditions simply cannot go to the casino. Meanwhile, a smoker could still be at the casino but leave for a smoke break and come back.
For this ban to really affect California casinos, it would mean that the betting population of smokers that is unwilling to go to casinos without their smoking heavily outweighs the non-smoking bettors as well as the bettors that would join from now being able to join the smoke-free casino floor. I just do not believe that is the case.
There are many levels to this debate, but it will be very interesting to see how the casinos and legislatures in California respond. Currently, a majority of California is headed to a complete shutdown. Casinos will once again be hit hard by this, similarly to the lockdown in March. The smoking rights lobbying may be the least of their concerns.