Casino Workers In Nevada Rally For Smoke-Free Workplace

Sep 28, 2016

On September 27, 2016, participants gather for a Smoke-Free Gaming of America rally in front of Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Credit Smoke-Free Gaming of America

Workers and patrons fed-up with breathing in secondhand smoke in Nevada casinos are rallying outside the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas Tuesday. Reno Public Radio’s Anh Gray has the details.

The advocacy group Smoke-Free Gaming of America organized the rally in front of the Sands Expo and Convention Center. That’s where the annual gaming trade show is being held.

Stephanie Steinberg is with the group. Even though many Nevada casinos have designated smoke-free areas, Steinberg says that’s not enough.

“It’s not comprehensive,” Steinberg says, “you still leave out some of your employees who are still forced to breathe secondhand smoke.”

Nevada’s Clean Indoor Air Act banned smoking in most public spaces nearly a decade ago, but the law exempts certain gaming areas in casinos.  That's not the case in other states, like Maryland, where MGM Resorts has a new entirely smoke-free casino, in compliance with state law there. Steinberg says casino executives are putting the health of Nevada workers at risk.

“They still hang on this old philosophy that we still have to have smoking,” Steinberg explains. “Well, if you have to have smoking then why are you building and opening smoke-free casinos in other states? Why aren’t you treating your employees here with equality?”

In response to this story, a representative from MGM Resorts issued an email statement saying that the company is abiding by Nevada law and that many of its customers still choose to smoke in designated areas.

And in response to customer requests, the company has made some changes like making poker rooms non-smoking.

In reporting this story, KUNR reached out to MGM Resorts, and a representative sent this email response on September 27, 2016:

MGM Resorts recognizes that smoking is a dynamic and complex issue, one that we continue to monitor and closely assess in all of the regions where we operate. For now, many of our customers at our Nevada resorts choose to smoke in areas where it is permitted by law. We continue to offer this option to these customers, while keeping other areas smoke-free. We welcome people from all over the world, including from countries where smoking is more prevalent than it is in the U.S. 

As you know, the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act, which went into effect in 2006, prohibits smoking in most public areas. Bars and casinos are excluded, as are convention facilities under certain circumstances, but all other indoor areas of our resorts are smoke-free. Customers at our Strip properties may request that a gaming table remain smoke-free.

Several years ago, our company poker rooms became non-smoking in response to requests from our guests.

In addition to full compliance with clean indoor air regulations, all of our Strip properties have the benefit of modern HVAC systems that clean and filter our indoor air.

ARIA has a comprehensive displacement ventilation process. Slot machine bases, casino columns and lobby benches serve as floor air-handling units, efficiently cooling the building from the ground up.  The process also pushes air contaminants up and away from guests.

Several years back, air quality tests conducted at Bellagio found that through the benefit of advanced air-handling systems, the air quality inside the casino, even with smoking being permitted, was similar to the air quality outside of it, and in some cases better.