Non-Smoking Areas Don’t Work

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These steps often don’t go nearly far enough to provide a truly safe environment.


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We often hear from players who talk about non-smoking sections or other measures taken by casinos to indicate they can cater to everyone. But the reality is these steps often don’t go nearly far enough to provide a truly safe environment for the non-smoking population that makes up a majority of players.

Casinos have long tried to butter the bread on both sides by offering both smoking and non-smoking sections. This is what also used to exist in restaurants, airplanes, movie theaters and other places, but it ignores the critical health risks involved in having second-hand smoke in the air at all. As long as a space allows smoking, that smoke can disperse within the air. 

Take New Jersey, where casinos are required by law to have 75 percent of their casino space non-smoking, but has no regulations as to how or where a smoking or non-smoking area has to be designated. You often end up with smoking banks located right across the aisle from non-smoking banks. There are no walls or protection that keeps the smoking from drifting right into the non-smoking areas.

Many casinos opened non-smoking areas that are open floor plans to the smoking areas. To add insult to injury, these spaces often had older and less attractive games, which certainly fed the expectations that non-smoking spaces would underperform, despite it being set up to fail almost by design.

There’s no such thing as a safe level of second-hand smoke exposure, yet many casinos are set up to expose all patrons, regardless of whether they smoke or wish to breathe in smoke. Ventilation systems can’t remove everything, and even if you can’t smell the second-hand smoke, it doesn’t mean it’s not in the air. 

Air tests conducted in casinos that allow smoking had a sufficiently high pollutant level in the air in restaurants mandated by law to be non-smoking to be dangerous. This is because the open floor plans of casinos don’t create any protection from the adjacent casino smoking areas.

Only 11.5% of the population smokes today, according to the CDC, and a recent survey found that 94% of gambling respondents would prefer a smoke-free gaming space. Further, 88% of smokers prefer a smoke-free environment if there was an outdoor smoking patio provided.

This is equally important for not only the patrons, but the employees, who do not have the option in many markets to avoid smoke within a casino, and often develop health issues that smokers traditionally get, despite being a non-smoker. Players are being put at risk just the same with exposure to second-hand smoke.

As such, a truly smoke free space, that exists with separate ventilation and access and does not require traveling through any smoking areas, is the only true way to offer a non-smoking experience. And this is why we advocate for truly non-smoking spaces. 

When done right, smokers can still have options, such as outdoor smoking patios (where gaming can take place – casinos in Maryland have offered this for years) or fully separated smoking and non-smoking spaces (such as what Plaza has implemented with the new Brian Christopher Slots at Plaza smoke-free area). If casinos can’t fully let go of smoking for good just yet, at least they can be more realistic and implement a truly smoke free experience for the majority of guess who don’t smoke or prefer a smoke free environment.


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8 Replies to “Non-Smoking Areas Don’t Work”

  • Rhonda says:

    The paragraph that begins with “take New Jersey”. The last sentence should read : There are no walls or protection that keeps the smoke from drifting right into the non-smoking areas.

  • Paul says:

    Yes you’re absolutely right about the second hand smoking hazards the workers should get hazardous pay for working inside casinos is dangerous to your health ! Come to the Mohegan Sun in Ct. There is No Smoking in the Casinos and they have smoking areas outside and everyone is happy 😊. If you’re having fun gambling you certainly can take a break to smoke a cigarette if you want to! Also at the Arena you don’t have to leave the building you can go outside to smoke 💨 no hand stamps to get back inside to your seat. They still have quest rooms with smoking and I imagine it’s on its own ventilation system. It’s a nice weekend trip to Ct. We have to huge casino we also have Foxwoods Casino Resort but that’s 20 minutes further from my already an hour drive. Hope to see you all in Ct. Nicely done newsletter I learned a couple things.

    • FlipTheSwitch.com says:

      Hey Paul! We’ve visited Connecticut in the past, most recently Foxwoods back in April, but we’ve also visited Mohegan Sun previously.

      We’d love to get back to either of the CT casinos, so be sure to let them know you’d love to see us visit again!

  • Desley says:

    Gidday Brian,
    Here in Aussie land there are designated closed off to non smoking areas – smoking areas in both local pubs, clubs and the casinos and these work well. As I vape, I have to play in the smoking area (not allowed in non smoking areas). I was playing a pokie (slot) at my local club a couple of months ago and I heard a converstation between a club member and a member of the management committee. The management committee member told the member that the smoking area brings in the most pokies (slots) revenue for the club. So much so that the committee decided to renovate the area and enlarge the space for smokers to sit and smoke/drink whilst playing.

    Usually I drink water. Whilst I’ve had some success playing the pokies (slots) in the non smoking areas of a club, my biggest and more consistent success definitely comes from playing the pokies in a smoking area.

    So whilst I understand that many are anti smoking and that’s okay from my perspective, having a designated closed off area from non smoking areas does work well here in Aussie land.

    • FlipTheSwitch.com says:

      Thank you for this outline of how things are working in Australia! The biggest challenge here in the US is the lack of walls between smoking and non-smoking sections in many casinos. That means it isn’t an effective separation, and the push for smokefree gaming spaces is in part a reaction to that. Those areas with more restrictions here in the US have gotten more creative to serve the various populations well, such as outdoor smoking patios with gaming devices, so hopefully things evolve in ways that make more sense.

  • Cs says:

    We were just in Vegas all of December…from Illinois! Red rock used to be very well ventilated, but this year we both ended up sick from smoke! In fact, had planned on staying through January but everywhere was just to hard on our lungs! We also live in Vegas for 5 years and never had the problem we did this time.
    I can wear a mask, but doesn’t help with CIGAR smoke! I have actually had people light up and blow smoke towards me, because they want you to move. I smoked years ago and remember always asking the person next to me if they minded me having a cigarette as a polite thing to do. I moved NOT them if it bothered them.
    Yes I did visit the Plaza and your smoke free space, very cool. And very smoke free! 👏

    • FlipTheSwitch.com says:

      Hi Cs – it definitely becomes apparent in longer trips, and cigar smoke is for sure a challenge! We’re glad you liked the smokefree Brian Christopher at Plaza space!

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