New Vigo County Gaming License Should be Granted to a Smokefree Casino
Hoosiers Prefer Smokefree Gaming Experience, Believe Casino Employees Shouldn’t Have to Work Surrounded by Smoke
November 12, 2021
Indianapolis, IN— Advocates are urging the Indiana Gaming Commission to prioritize applicants for a new casino license who commit to operating smokefree indoors. Americans for Nonsmoker’s Rights (ANR) submitted public comments to the Commission ahead of their November 17 deadline to grant the new casino license for Vigo County.
In a letter to the Commission, Cynthia Hallett, President and CEO of ANR, stressed the importance of selecting an applicant who will operate a smokefree indoors casino from the day they open.
“The pandemic has brought about a sea change in how the gaming industry thinks about smokefree policies, and smokefree indoor casinos are quickly becoming the norm across the United States. Nearly half of all states--including Indiana neighbors Illinois and Ohio--more than 160 Tribal gaming properties and nearly 1,100 gaming venues nationwide do not permit smoking indoors. This shift makes sense, considering that the vast majority of adults do not smoke. Seventy-eight percent of Hoosiers do not smoke, and smokefree indoor public places are the norm in Terre Haute.
“Not only do Hoosiers, by a two-to-one margin, say they’d be more likely to visit a casino if its smokefree indoors, but they also believe casino workers should not be forced to work in a smoke-filled environment -- to choose between their health and a paycheck.”
Hallett also raised the concerns that casinos without smokefree policies create extremely unhealthy conditions for their employees and disproportionately impact workers of color who make up a large portion of the gaming industry’s workforce.
“Work environments with secondhand smoke are unsafe and, when they exist in the gaming industry, exacerbate existing health disparities. According to a report issued by the American Gaming Association (AGA), the casino industry employs a far more diverse workforce than most other industries in America. Per the AGA’s own count, not only do women make up nearly half of gaming’s workforce, 45% of the workforce is composed of people of color and nearly 20% of gaming employees are Hispanic. Permitting smoking in this Vigo County casino would only exacerbate existing disparities in health outcomes among communities that largely make up the industry’s frontline workers, while at the same time casino executives work in smokefree offices.”
The letter to the Commission methodically debunked claims by some casino executives regarding the effectiveness of filtration systems against secondhand smoke and claims that smokefree indoor policies hurt revenue streams.
“Many in the industry claim that their advanced air filtration systems protect workers from the well-established harms of secondhand smoke. These claims are false, and the engineers who design those ventilation systems say they don’t solve the problem. These engineers, from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), warn that even the best filtration and ventilation systems "are not effective against secondhand smoke" and "can reduce only odor and discomfort but cannot eliminate exposure...There is no currently available or reasonably anticipated ventilation or air cleaning system that can adequately control or significantly reduce the health risks of [environmental tobacco smoke] to an acceptable level.” Gaming companies should never be mistaken for public health or engineering experts.
“In the latest sign that views on indoor smoking at casinos are shifting, the head of the casino gaming industry's powerful lobbying group, the AGA, has been rebutting an argument made by many of his organization's members who prioritize perceived benefits to their bottom lines from allowing smoking over the health of their frontline employees.
“AGA CEO Bill Miller says that casinos that have gone smokefree have done so "without detrimental effect" and that the decision "hasn't led to a decrease in business." Miller has also noted that some in the industry fear that smokefree policies will hurt the bottom line, “but it’s not necessarily true.” The comment came as AGA published a report showing that U.S. commercial gaming revenue hit an all-time high of $13.6 billion in the second quarter of 2021--a period during which casinos in some of the biggest gaming markets across the country, such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania, operated smokefree indoors.”
ABOUT AMERICANS FOR NONSMOKERS' RIGHTS
Americans for Nonsmoker’s Rights (ANR) is a member-supported, non-profit advocacy group that has been working for 45 years, since 1976, to protect everyone’s right to breathe nontoxic air in workplaces and public places, from offices and airplanes to restaurants, bars, and casinos. ANR has continuously shined a light on the tobacco industry’s interference with sound and life-saving public health measures and successfully protected 61% of the population with local or statewide smokefree workplace, restaurant, and bar laws. ANR aims to close gaps in smokefree protections for workers in all workplaces, including bars, music venues, casinos, and hotels. For more information, please visit https://no-smoke.org/ and https://smokefreecasinos.org/.