Casino Employees Receive Millions for Secondhand Smoke Exposure

In December 2010, Tropicana Casino and resort paid $4.5 million in damages to Vince Rennich to settle a lawsuit over second hand smoke. Rennich, a lifetime non-smoker, was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2005 after he was exposed to secondhand smoke for twenty-five years as a casino employee in Atlantic City, New Jersey. In 2000, Kam Wong, a dealer who had worked for the Claridge Casino Hotel for 10 years, was awarded $150,000 from a workers’ compensation claim for lost wages and medical expenses because of secondhand smoke exposure that contributed to her lung cancer. Casino workers in Las Vegas, Nevada have recently been given class-status in a lawsuit seeking damages from secondhand smoke, a known environmental hazard.

More and more cases like these will end up costing casino operators and state governments millions of dollars if workers are not adequately protected from secondhand smoke.

Gaming Employees Have the Right to Breathe Smokefree Air

Health

  • Approximately 16,000 Indiana casino workers are at greater risk for lung and heart disease and various cancers because of secondhand smoke exposure. The Indiana casino industry is the fifth largest employer in Indiana. (Source: Casino Association of Indiana)
  • Smoke-filled casinos have up to 50 times more cancer-causing particles in the air than highways and city streets clogged with diesel trucks in rush hour traffic. Once smokefree, casino indoor air pollution virtually disappears.
  • When individuals inhale cigarette smoke, either directly or secondhand, they are inhaling more than 7,000 chemicals: hundreds of these are hazardous, and at least 69 are known to cause cancer.
    (Source: U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, MD, MBA)
  • A number of states have passed smokefree air laws that cover all gaming, including: Illinois, Delaware and Colorado.

Economic Impact

  • Smokefree laws have no effect on total gambling revenues or on the average revenue per machine. Despite smokefree air opponents’ claims, smokefree laws do not harm casinos or other gambling venues, just as they do not harm restaurants, bars, retail stores, or bingo parlors.
  • One year after implementation of Delaware’s comprehensive smokefree law, state revenue from gaming increased by $5.7 million. The $5.7 million is equivalent to a 3 percent increase in state revenue from gaming.

A recent study of 17,000 gamblers in Las Vegas found that four out of five gamblers do not smoke.

Ventilation

  • Ventilation, or the creation of “non-smoking” sections, does not protect workers or patrons from exposure to secondhand smoke. In 2006, the U.S. Surgeon General determined that there is “no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke” and that separating smokers from nonsmokers, air cleaning technologies, and ventilating buildings cannot effectively eliminate secondhand smoke exposure.
  • The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) adopted a position document that states: “At present, the only means of effectively eliminating health risks associated with indoor exposure is to ban smoking activity… No other engineering approaches, including current and advanced dilution ventilation or air cleaning technologies, have demonstrated or should be relied upon to control health risks from ETS [environmental tobacco smoke] exposure in spaces where smoking occurs… Because of ASHRAE’s mission to act for the benefit of the public, it encourages elimination of smoking in the indoor environment as the optimal way to minimize ETS (secondhand smoke) exposure.”