North Carolina Lawmakers Face Lobbying from Casino Smoking Opponents

Posted on: August 16, 2023, 01:25h.

Last updated on: August 16, 2023, 01:25h.

A national nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating the negative impact of secondhand smoke is urging lawmakers in North Carolina to exclude indoor smoking in casinos if the state legalizes commercial gambling.

casino smoking North Carolina
A gambler vapes while gambling at The Plaza in downtown Las Vegas. An advocacy opposed to casino smoking is calling on lawmakers in North Carolina to prohibit indoor smoking should they decide to legalize commercial casinos. (Image: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

The North Carolina General Assembly is currently working on a budget bill, and there are reports suggesting that a casino measure proposed as an add-on is causing a standstill. Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) is leading the casino effort as a tactic to prevent gaming revenue from going to Virginia, where commercial casinos are opening.

Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights (ANR), an organization dedicated to fighting smoking, wrote a letter to Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain) this week, urging the state to ban indoor smoking in casinos if Berger’s bill is included in the budget.

Berger’s proposal is to allow a single casino resort in Rockingham, Anson, and Nash counties. The gaming measure also includes provisions to protect the eastern part of the state for a potential tribal casino for the Lumbee Tribe if they gain federal recognition.

Local officials in the three counties claim that they are not being included in the discussions about gaming in the state. Many residents and county officials have publicly criticized Berger and his allies for trying to impose casino gambling on communities that may not want Las Vegas-style resorts in their area.

No Smoking Petition

ANR President Cynthia Hallett wrote a letter to Berger and Moore emphasizing the risks that employees face in an indoor environment where smoking is allowed or partially allowed. Hallett argues that the only way to ensure the health and safety of workers and patrons inside casinos is to completely ban indoor smoking.

Hallett also addressed the concerns raised by the casino lobby, which claims that a complete indoor smoking ban would harm revenue and tax income. She pointed out that North Carolina’s three tribal casinos, Harrah’s Cherokee, Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River, and Catawba Two Kings Casino, are already smoke-free.

“Old arguments in favor of allowing indoor smoking are outdated,” Hallett said. “You have the opportunity to create a modern commercial casino industry. We urge you to seize this chance to set up future casinos for success by reaching a wider customer base and protecting the health of all North Carolinians.”

ANR supports a grassroots coalition of casino workers called “Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects” (CEASE), who advocate for smoke-free workplaces.

“These worker advocates have testified before legislators, sharing stories of pregnant women being forced to work in an environment surrounded by high-roller cigar smokers, and others who have developed cancer after working their whole careers in casinos. In places like Atlantic City and elsewhere, casinos have had difficulty hiring table games dealers because workers do not want to risk their health by working long hours in smoke-filled environments,” Hallett added.

Commercial Casino Smoking By State

Out of the 27 states that permit commercial casinos or racinos, only 10 fully prohibit indoor smoking on the gaming floors.

The fully smoke-free gaming states are Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, and South Dakota. Virginia’s commercial casinos are allowed to permit smoking anywhere on the gaming floor.

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