If you ever want to go back in time, consider a trip to Las Vegas, where casinos remain as smoke-filled as they were in the days when you could still smoke on airplanes and in doctor’s offices. That’s because, despite the fact that Nevada—like many states—has a ban on smoking in public places, the state’s powerful casino industry has won an exception for casinos with more than 15 slot machines, i.e., every casino on the Strip.
Now, a group of blackjack dealers and croupiers have filed a class action lawsuit against the Wynn Las Vegas to try and force that casino-resort to install clean-air technology that will at least reduce the amount of cigarette smoke swirling about the place and into casino employees’ lungs. That’s right, they’re not even trying to seek a smoke-free workplace—they’re simply asking their employer to do a little more to reduce the fumes.
Given that Nevada has the nation’s highest unemployment rate and that the casino industry has been absolutely hammered by the Great Recession, it’s understandable that casino employees and other state residents might be willing to give the industry a break when it comes to indoor smoking. But it’s pretty sad that blackjack dealers, cocktail waitresses and others are being forced to choose between losing their livelihoods and suffering the deadly effects of prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke. At the very least, the casino industry should think about the high healthcare costs and missed work days these workers are incurring, not to mention all the non-smoking gamblers they’re scaring away. As activists with Smoke-Free gaming, an organization of casino employees who want the industry to ban smoking, have said: “What Happens in Vegas … Stays in Your Lungs.”