Casinos are working feverishly towards making guests feel they are not at risk when they travel back to properties with newly implemented safety measures. Among all these new features, there is one important change blatantly missing: prohibiting smoking.
Smoking could easily spread the COVID-19 virus, not only because of the need to remove your mask but because of an individual's pattern of fingers to mouth while in constant contact with each game they decide to participate in.
Many doctors and experts have gone on record expressing that smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke can lead to coughing which in turn can aid in the spread of the infection. Unfortunately, casino operators don’t appear to have all the health interests of both their guests and employees at the heart of their newly implemented changes. Should that change, now is the time to play the hand being dealt and push all the collective chips into the middle.
Patrons either turning on the news or coming across signs in local establishments are told to avoid touching surfaces others have touched, and then touching your face, mouth, or eyes. In casinos, gamblers continuously touch cards, chips, dice, slot machine buttons, and above all, money. Even those of us who are not medical experts can rationalize that the act of smoking could likely lead to a higher risk of transmission during uncertain times
Also, what about the risks to non-smokers resulting from secondhand smoke? Part of the outline in the current Nevada Gaming Control Board’s reopening plan only requires properties to provide face masks or cloth face coverings upon request. Rather than make it a requirement, they only encourage guests to wear them.
The rationale behind the decision is not about safety, but money. Management running the properties are worried people would stop coming to play, leading to money lost from international tourism where many gamblers do not face such restrictions.
Dating to the days of Frank Sinatra to Sammy Davis Jr, many iconic images depict “Sin City” as a gambling destination where smoking has been synonymous with the lifestyle and imagery of the city’s bustling nightlife. But times have changed, and the goal should be to not only attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19, but to help others avoid the fate of Davis, an avid smoker who eventually passed away from throat cancer.
University of Nevada, Las Vegas gambling expert and author David Schwartz recently told USA Today that the current state of the world presents an ideal time for Nevada gaming operators to consider implementing the change:
"Coming back from COVID-19, both casino patrons and employees may have increased concerns about the presence of cigarette smoke. Given that the customer experience will be very different when casinos reopen, this may be an ideal time for Nevada gaming operators to consider changing where they allow smoking on their properties."
Additionally, Ashley Herbert, Director of Government Relations with the American Heart Association, recently told the Shreveport Times:
“No one should have to choose between their health and a paycheck...there should not be one class of worker that is unprotected from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke,” Herbert told The Times.
If the focus of state officials is truly on the health and safety of the public, then directives should be made demanding casinos in every state become smoke-free. If considered, the greatest gambling destination in the world can implement a change that validates the health and safety of guests and workers at the forefront of the new reality.