Problem Gambling Council: Smoke-Free Casinos Might Promote Responsible Play
Smoke-free casinos might be better suited to promote responsible gambling than their smoking counterparts. That’s according to a national nonprofit committed to minimizing gambling-related harms.
In a recent letter addressed to the New Jersey Senate and General Assembly, National Council on Problem Gambling Executive Director Keith Whyte says state lawmakers should further examine whether smoke-free casinos experience fewer instances of irresponsible gambling. Two bills, each seeking to end casino smoking in Atlantic City, have been introduced to the New Jersey Legislature.
“Research shows that there is a correlation between smoking frequency and gambling severity,” Whyte said.
Whyte, however, says more research on the matter is needed. But of the few studies that have been conducted on the issue to date, Whyte says an association between indoor smoking and problem gambling has been detected.
Whyte said a 2004 study from La Trobe University in Australia found gamblers have higher rates of tobacco use compared with the general public and a linear relationship between gambling severity and smoking frequency and nicotine dependency.
The NCPG head also cited a 2006 probe by New Zealand’s Health Ministry that concluded that 58% of problem gamblers are daily smokers. And a 2002 review regarding gambling behaviors found that gamblers who smoked daily gamble more often and for more money than non-daily smokers.
NCPG continues to monitor research in this area and hopes to see further development. However, given this association between smoking and problem gambling, NCPG believes that making casinos smoke-free is likely to reduce the incidence of problem gambling and improve public health,” Whyte concluded to the New Jersey Legislature.
Atlantic City’s gaming industry is amid a war of words regarding the ongoing allowance of indoor smoking. Casino workers who seek a clean air workplace began mounting a public campaign in July 2021 after the state’s health order amid the pandemic that temporarily prohibited casino smoking expired and gamblers were allowed to light back up.
“Casino Employees Against Smoking’s Effects” (CEASE) is leading the crusade to convince state lawmakers to extinguish the casino indoor smoking loophole. Their fight has been well-received in Trenton, as a majority of both the General Assembly and Senate now support making the casinos go smoke-free.
However, the introduced bills have been mothballed in their respective chambers by Democratic leaders who have heeded calls from the local casino union not to act on the measures. Unite Here Local 54 has largely sided with the Atlantic City casinos in their belief that ending casino smoking would hurt gaming revenue by as much as 25% and could cost 2,500 jobs.
As of September, there are more than 1,000 casinos and gaming properties in the US that offer fully smoke-free floors. That’s according to tracking compiled by Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights (ANR), which keeps tabs on tribal and commercial casinos and their smoking policies.
“Gaming properties” includes parimutuel horse racetracks, off-track betting facilities, jai alai frontons, racinos, dog tracks, and card rooms.
Many tribal casinos have gone smoke-free since the pandemic. A report published at the 2021 Indian Gaming Association Convention and Tradeshow revealed that approximately 79% of gamblers favor a smoke-free casino.
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