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Casino fights go up in smoke

The casino industry’s main lobby group, which has actively opposed smoking bans for years, is stepping back as indoor smoking bans, including casinos, have been passed.

Since the mid-1990s, the National Game Association has pushed for national building code standards that embrace tobacco smoke, arguing that banning tobacco would be bad for business.

But Judy Patterson, executive director of the American Game Association, says fighting the smoking ban is a “tough fight.” 안전 토토사이트

Even states that exempted casinos from smoking cessation laws, like Colorado and New Jersey, reconsidered those exemptions the following year, she noted.

She said lobbying against smoking bans at the national level had become nearly impossible.

“All the momentum is with the health group,” Patterson said. “This has become one of the issues that we can’t deal with across the industry.”

Some of the association’s private casino members have softened their opposition to the ban, saying they would support a national and federal ban, especially if tribal casinos were included. The rationale is that a blanket ban would make no casino profitable by allowing it, and would attract smokers from non-smoking casinos.

The American Game Association was one of the few business trade organizations in the 1990s to oppose a short proposal by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration to ban smoking in the workplace altogether.

The association, which is courted by the tobacco industry, is one of a growing number of anti-smoking opponents. Even many of its members’ restaurants and bar associations, which are already operating under anti-smoking laws, have weakened their opposition to it.

While Colorado is moving to specifically ban smoking in casinos, Illinois is expected to become the largest non-tribal casino state to approve a blanket ban. In Atlantic City, a new law came out to ban smoking in 75 percent of casinos.

Historically, the Game Association has not lobbied at the state level for fear of siding with its competitors. While most casinos are opposed to quitting smoking in principle, for example, a state-run casino company may prefer to quit in a nearby state where its competitors are located to pick up smoking customers.

Patterson said the association has not lobbied for a national smoking ban because not all members want it. She said the Bush administration is likely to oppose it anyway, and health groups fear federal regulations could preempt stricter local laws as they become more successful with local ordinances.

In 2005, a national advisory panel setting air ventilation standards concluded that no filtration system could effectively eliminate health risks associated with secondhand smoke, causing a significant blow to the association’s efforts to allow casino smoking.

Few casinos have voluntarily banned smoking. New casinos are installing more effective and expensive ventilation systems to minimize complaints about smokers.

One such system attempts to suppress vibrating tobacco smoke by creating curtains of flowing air. It is one of several casinos under consideration, including the Centrepiece Resort at MGM Mirage’s $7.4 billion city center in Las Vegas.

Health advocates say casinos, the last bastion of smokers, are the clearest sign yet that they are beginning to cut losses.

“Casinos have realized that claims of economic disaster are untrue and they don’t want to burn the chips on this issue because it can hurt other issues that are more important to them,” said Stanton Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco.

Studies in several states have shown that quitting smoking does not hurt businesses in the long run, but casinos and many industry observers say that bans – all the evidence available, at least in the short term – keep gamblers out of games or induce them to gamble where smoking is legal.

“I think it’s very clear that in the short term, smoking cessation has a negative impact on play,” said Andrew Janet, a bond analyst at Deutsche Bank. “But it won’t affect business in the long run because we believe that most American societies will be non-smokers, playgrounds will be level again, and casinos will learn how to accommodate smokers. That might be just adding outside areas with heating lamps and benches, instead of having to walk out of casinos, walk into corners, and stand behind sticks.”

Adam Steinberg, a stock analyst at Morgan Joseph, said the industry’s position on smoking is changing as customers change their attitudes.

“For the first time, more than half of the population is living in a place where smoking is banned,” Steinberg said. “This is something smokers are getting used to. At first it was affecting them, but it’s not as suppressed as it used to be as it used to be as more businesses are quitting. It certainly hasn’t killed the airline industry.”

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