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Caesars Says No to Smoke-Free Gaming Floors

Caesars Palace Las Vegas Strip
A statue of Julius Caesar wears a mask at Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas Strip as the property opens for the first time since being closed on March 17 because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, on June 4, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. David Becker/Getty Images/AFP

Investors voted against a proposal that would issue a report about the cost savings associated with a smoking ban at all of Caesars’ properties. The vast majority of casino companies want to maintain a section of their casino floors designated as smoking areas to keep their smoking customers coming back.

Let’s take a closer look at the reasons behind the rejection and how it may impact top-rated sportsbooks.

Smokers Still Welcome

Health advocates including Trinity Health, a nonprofit healthcare network, and Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights tried to get a proposal passed at Caesars, Bally’s, and Boyd Gaming that would show casino companies and their investors that the cost savings from banning smoking would be greater than any perceived losses from smokers taking their business elsewhere.

But a recent proposal that went before Caesars investors was voted down as the company believes a complete ban would drive smoking casino customers to neighboring locations that welcome smokers. Although we know the majority of Caesars investors voted down the non-smoking compliance report, we do not know the precise percentage as of this writing.

The same proposal was also voted down at Bally’s and Boyd Gaming, in which only 11.6% of Bally’s investors and 22.5% of Boyd’s investors voted to approve the measure. Those numbers fell far short of the required majority.

Navigating Smoky Waters

Caesars did report that 10 of its casinos are already totally smoke-free due to the states in which they reside have outlawed smoking in all public establishments, including casino room floors. Caesars cannot defy the will of the state legislature but they can chart their own course in those jurisdictions that allow smoking on the gaming room floors.

“We believe that completely banning smoking from all our properties where it is not legally required may risk alienating our smoking customers,” the company said, while also noting that it “takes steps to help protect the health” of its non-smoking customers.

Boyd Gaming said before its proxy vote, “adopting a property-wide smoke-free policy would have significant competitive implications, as customers who wish to smoke while gaming could consider patronizing a competitor.”

“We have previously experienced such negative impacts in markets subject to smoking bans,” the company emphasized.

Bally’s said in its proxy statement, “Compliance with local smoking laws ensures that the company remains competitive in all markets in which it operates and is responsive to the unique health mandates in each municipality and state.”

Pushback

A grassroots movement to ban smoking in casinos began several years ago and many of the members in it are also the same casino workers toiling in a smoky gaming room floor. The workers contend they need the money but are afraid the second-hand smoke may be compromising their health.

Pete Naccarelli, a casino table games dealer and co-founder of Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects, said in a statement, “Every day we step into our workplace, we’re risking our lives. It’s a stark reality—indoor smoking not only jeopardizes our health as workers but also drives away valuable customers.”

Paula Larson-Schusster, the president of United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 355, whose union counts 3,000 dealers and casino floor workers in Las Vegas among its members, said she believes if the companies “will get on board” once they realize a smoking ban will not cost them money as the lower healthcare costs and reduced maintenance of the facilities would more than even out any loss of revenue.

“This is not going to affect their business,” Larson-Schusster said. “It will probably cut health care costs, cleaning costs, and other general expenses.”

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