Should smoking remain at Las Vegas casinos when they reopen?

Posted at 7:31 AM, May 19, 2020

LAS VEGAS — With health and safety at the forefront as local governments begin lifting coronavirus-related shutdowns, could casinos in Las Vegas reopen with a smoking ban?

The ambiance of the casino floor in Las Vegas has always been known for gaming and cigarettes — but one Nevada doctor says smoking puts everyone at a casino at further risk for COVID-19.

"Any kind of environmental toxin which includes second-hand smoke I think could potentially put you at risk for a respiratory illness," Dr. Christina Madison of Roseman University said.

She says smoking can create issues that create complications from COVID-19, which attacks a person's respiratory system.

"Anything that damages the lung tissue. Anything that could potentially put you at risk for a respiratory pathogen is not a good idea," Madison said.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board didn't address smoking in its reopening guidelines for casinos.

UNLV professor and gaming historian David Schwartz isn't surprised, saying smoking has been closely tied with gaming for years. He says the reason for allowing smoking may be financial. Casinos that are smoke-free in other parts of the country haven't been as successful.

"There was a casino that opened in Atlantic City that opened with no smoking that didn't do too well, but there could have been a lot of reasons for that," he said.

Schwartz says any changes would depend on the comfort level of customers.

"They may not feel it's a good idea to be breathing in other people's smoke so that could impact for the locals and Strip casinos," he said.

Madison believes the focus on health and safety during the pandemic could give casinos a license to go smoke-free.

"I think this is really going to help them to make that transition without as much pushback as I think they would have had otherwise," she said.

In a statement, the Nevada Gaming Control Board said that casinos reserve the right to designate non-smoking areas, but any total smoking ban would need to be passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Gov. Steve Sisolak.

"The Board has received many public comment submissions regarding the public's concern about smoking in casinos and how that may affect the health and safety of Nevadans and visitors when gaming operations are allowed to resume, and the Board keeps the Commission and all other relevant parties apprised of these comments.

This story was originally published by Jeremy Chen on KTNV in Las Vegas.

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