Ban Casino Smoking, Workers in Rhode Island Tell Lawmakers

New Jersey Residents Back a Smoking Ban at Casinos in Atlantic City

Casino workers in Rhode Island continue to insist that their employers and lawmakers should do more and opt out of smoking on gaming floors. There is a critical mass of both employees and legislators, it seems, to make the ban on gaming floors a permanent one.

It all hinges on whether a proposed bill that could do just would clear the legislature. Casinos are the only properties in the state that are exempted from a ban on smoking in public places, and Bally’s Twin River Lincoln Casino and Bally’s Tiverton Casino and Hotel are still exposing workers to indoor smoking.

Casino Workers Will Urge Lawmakers to Expedite Bill

But workers from both casinos wanted to visit the State House on Wednesday and urge lawmakers to make haste and ensure that the bill is passed this legislative session. Their fight is not the only one and other states in the United States are seeing the same grassroots opposition to smoking in casinos.

In Atlantic City, casino operators and executives worry that this measure would cost them clientele and send customers packing across the border to Pennsylvania. However, the Keystone State is also planning to completely suspend smoking on its own casino floors. Meanwhile, in Rhode Island, employers are also ready to negotiate. It previously surfaced that workers were barred from discussing smoking bans in some Atlantic City casinos.

A spokesperson for the casinos, Patti Doyle, said that the properties will bring their own proposal to the table and discuss concerns raised by workers. Doyle did admit, though, that the properties do have a few concerns about the pitched legislation in its present form and they ensure that the casinos are already accommodating non-smokers.

But banning smoking on the casino floors is always tied to economic challenges, at least that is what casino operators believe. In Atlantic City, the lobby to keep smoking on casino floors is trying to demonstrate that smokers tend to be much bigger contributors and that the industry has not yet recovered to introduce more dramatic restrictions.

There is empirical evidence, though, to back both workers in New Jersey and Rhode Island who oppose the measure. Only nine states still allow smoking on the floors of casino properties, with the remainder still generating a hefty revenue despite a lack of smoking clientele. But for Americans for Nonsmokers president and CEO Cynthia Hallett ensuring that casino workers are not exposed to harmful substances is a number one priority.

Reduced Salaries, Strong Evidence of Danger, No Way to Mitigate Harm

There is undeniable proof that second-hand smoking is harmful to employees. The American Cancer Society Action Network has already submitted evidence to back the legislative efforts through the new bill. Democratic Rep. Teresa Tanzi is confident that there is sufficient and indisputable evidence about the adverse effects of smoking on human health to continue allowing this activity on casino floors.

Doyle though assures that employees are already permitted to work in non-smoking areas where smoking is already prohibited or where advanced ventilation systems are installed. Previous testimonies by casino workers, though, alleged that this came with a number of downsides.

One employee said that they had to change venues, increasing their commute and that the advanced ventilation systems only helped for a while. Besides, working in non-smoking areas could be associated with pay cuts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed that there is no safe amount of second-hand smoke and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers also said that there is no ventilation system that can adequately extract cigar and cigarette smoke from the air to reduce the health risks of smoking.  

Author: Ian Douglas