Casino Workers Praise NM Casino for Adopting Permanent Smokefree Policy
Employees at Isleta Resort & Casino Overwhelmingly Voted to End Indoor Smoking in Their Workplace
September 7, 2023
Isleta Resort & Casino in New Mexico has announced a new permanent smokefree policy to protect the health of their employees and guests. Casino executives held a press conference this week noting that guests frequently complained about the smell of smoke and that casino workers overwhelmingly voted to enact the policy.
Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects (CEASE) issued the following statement in response:
“We thank Isleta Resort & Casino for making the right decision to enact a permanent smokefree policy that will protect nonsmokers from the dangers of secondhand smoke and improve the health of their employees. A growing number of executives and industry experts agree that smokefree policies do not hurt revenue and recognize the potential to attract a new base of customers by providing guests with a modern, clean air experience. Casino workers across the country continue to speak out against outdated smoking practices and we’re glad that state lawmakers and industry leaders are taking notice and supporting these necessary changes to protect our health.”
When Isleta Resort and Casino reopened after the COVID shutdown, it implemented a mask requirement that meant no longer allowing customers to smoke inside. Casino officials told an interim legislative committee Wednesday that they’ve decided to maintain the ban indefinitely and, despite fears to the contrary, the policy actually boosted its bottom line.
CFO Diana Howard said there was some complaining among smokers about the new policy at first, “but now it is the new norm.”
“It’s kind of become accepted in our environment,” she told the panel.
And the bad reviews the casino used to get about the stench have ceased too.
“We have happier guests. We are not getting any complaints anymore about how they smell when they leave and how their hotel room smells,” Howard said. “For us, it’s just easier to keep clean and it’s great.”
A bill that would have banned smoking in the state’s racinos was tabled in this year’s legislative session. A fiscal analysis cited concern that patrons may choose a venue they could smoke in, resulting in a hit to revenue. Isleta Casino’s Chief HR Officer Charles Walters said his team saw the opposite.
“We saw our revenue going up, we saw our player count going up,” he said. “We did not see the complaints that were going out there historically.”
Legislators on the Tobacco Settlement Revenue Oversight Committee said the casino’s positive outcomes could prove helpful in future debate over a smoking ban in the racinos the state regulates.
Walters said Isleta Casino staff are happier too. A survey of employees upon hire and after a three-month probationary period showed 95% appreciated the non-smoking workplace.
“Many went as far to say that they only applied knowing that we went to a non-smoking environment,” he said, which he called a benefit in and of itself amid persistent staffing shortages.
Casino officials said it is the health benefits of the ban for staff and customers, including tribal elders, that remain the primary driver behind keeping it in place.
Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects (CEASE) is a group of thousands of casino dealers and other frontline gaming workers that is fighting to permanently remove smoking from our workplaces. CEASE has chapters working to close the casino smoking loophole in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Kansas and Virginia.