The Impact of Smoking Bans on the Casino Industry – Controversies and Effects
New research cautions that casinos in states with smoking bans could experience billions of dollars worth of economic losses due to such restrictions, however critics question if such bans will truly lead to such significant economic ramifications.
Some gamblers who smoke have expressed interest in casinos that permit smoking. Others, however, are worried that smokers would need more frequent breaks for cigarettes which would disrupt concentration.
Long held to be true, casinos whose customers smoke are expected to see revenue decreases, yet a report by Las Vegas-based C3 Gaming indicates otherwise.
The study provides several examples of casinos which have not experienced revenue losses after smoking bans were enforced, and also notes how the coronavirus pandemic has altered many aspects of casino experience, such as eliminating daily housekeeping services and discontinuing buffet service – changes customers have become used to.
Notably, this company’s findings run contrary to those of a study commissioned by the New Jersey Casino Association which predicted massive revenue losses for casinos that prohibit smoking. A spokesperson from Unite Here Local 54 claimed that this study underestimated its impact and noted that smokers having to leave casinos to get cigarette breaks may need to review their gambling budgets more frequently and could become disenchanted with playing.
New Jersey casinos are asserting that banning smoking would cost them both patrons and revenue. Unite Here has come out against this ban as a possible threat to jobs and money in their industry.
C3 Gaming of Las Vegas conducted a recent study and found that casinos forced to go smoke free during the coronavirus pandemic but who opted to remain nonsmoking after CDC guidelines were lifted didn’t experience a decrease in revenues as anticipated.
Report authors argue that casino owners seeking profits may be more inclined to adopt smoke-free policies if they can demonstrate it would drive customers away from competing establishments and increase profits. Unfortunately, several large Vegas casinos which KTNV reached out to for comment did not respond, didn’t answer the phone or said they hadn’t read or reviewed the report. Casino workers argue nonsmoking policies are about business rather than health; gambling comes with its own set of unique experiences including smoking which should be left up to each gambler as they decide whether or not this aspect fits into their experience or not.
Casino owners argued against the Baton Rouge law on grounds it would cost jobs, reduce profits and tax revenue, disfavor them in relation to smokefree competitors and force employees into less comfortable working environments. Opponents rebutted these arguments claiming workers seeking smokefree environments could still be accommodated and that ventilation systems provided solutions.
C3 Gaming of Las Vegas conducted a new study that suggests casinos forced to become smokefree during the pandemic and still opting for smokefree policies after CDC guidance was lifted have not seen as dramatic a decline in revenues as was predicted; however, other factors could explain such as inflation or labor shortages could contribute to revenue decreases.
Louisiana’s experience demonstrates how health organizations can use local campaigns to secure comprehensive ordinances covering casinos and bars when state progress becomes blocked, using strategies such as sustained media, community organizing, polling and countering industry claims – which has enabled Louisiana health organizations to secure 30 local smokefree laws between 2011-2021 using these tactics.
Casino revenues may suffer temporarily as customers adjust to new laws; however, the industry should be able to offset these losses through greater customer care and improved reputation for providing quality service.
Pandemic has permanently altered consumer expectations, making smoking bans the new norm and helping casinos reduce reliance on gaming revenue.
However, some workers fear that if smoking bans at their casinos were implemented they’d lose their jobs. Instead, employees could travel to Connecticut and Pennsylvania where casinos permit smoking instead of Atlantic City casinos that do. According to UNITE HERE Local 54 President Bob McDevitt this could cost the New Jersey casinos as much as 10% of revenue and lead to the closure of at least one casino; but the actual number may even be greater.