May not advance this session

Bill banning smoking in Rhode Island casinos held for further study despite sustained workers' push

Reading time 2:08 min

Workers at Rhode Island's two casinos are pushing for a smoking ban at the properties, citing health concerns over secondhand smoke. The issue has made it to the State House, with Representative Teresa Tanzi and unionized casino workers leading the charge for smoke-free gaming environments.

Long after smoking was banned in public places, Rhode Island's two casinos still let gamblers light up. Rep. Tanzi, along with employees at Bally's casinos in Lincoln and Tiverton and their unions, has been vocal in advocating for this to change.

"Imagine what that's like, night after night, having to go home with cigarette smell in your hair, having to shower before you even got into bed," said Tanzi, using an ashtray as a poignant example. "Every single night, throwing your clothes in the laundry every single night because of the stench of smoking."

However, as of now, the bill to ban smoking at Bally's Twin River and Tiverton casinos has been held for further study, indicating that it may not advance during this legislative session.

Representative Teresa Tanzi

Despite the push for a smoke-free policy, Bally's has taken steps to address concerns by expanding no-smoking sections within their Lincoln casino. Craig Sculo, Vice President of Bally's Twin River Lincoln, stated that the casino has designated both first and second-floor areas as no-smoking zones.

"We're accommodating basically two casinos under one roof, space for those who prefer to be and work in a nonsmoking environment as well as patrons and employees that can access the smoking environment as well," Sculo explained.

Twin River Lincoln

Other casinos in New England have already transitioned to nonsmoking models. Facilities such as Plainridge in Plainville, Massachusetts, and Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut are completely smoke-free. Mohegan Sun in Connecticut offers designated outdoor smoking areas and a cigar bar, while MGM Springfield and Encore in Boston do not permit smoking on the gaming floors.

Sculo pointed to a Louisiana casino that initially banned smoking but saw a significant revenue decline, which led to the reintroduction of smoking. "Revenues declined, almost immediately double-digit. Local government again stepped in, and reintroduced smoking. Not only has that decline stopped, that property is now performing at or better than Shreveport competition," Sculo noted to legislators.

Contrastingly, Rep. Tanzi referenced a study suggesting that nonsmoking casinos can actually perform better financially. "According to an independent study by Las Vegas-based C3 gaming, a gambling industry consultant, they found that nonsmoking properties appear to be doing better than their counterparts that continue to allow smoking," she stated.

Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, who has yet to endorse the transition to smoke-free casinos, acknowledged Bally's efforts to improve air quality and limit smoking near employees.

Senate President Dominick Ruggerio

"My understanding is that Bally’s has worked with its union members to implement a number of changes related to smoking in their Rhode Island casinos, including making improvements to ventilation and limiting smoking directly near employees, such as at table games," Ruggerio said in a statement.

He added that the legislation to prohibit smoking at state casinos is currently under committee review to assess its potential benefits and impacts.

Leave your comment
Subscribe to our newsletter
Enter your email to receive the latest news
By entering your email address, you agree to Yogonet's Condiciones de uso and Privacy Policies. You understand Yogonet may use your address to send updates and marketing emails. Use the Unsubscribe link in those emails to opt out at any time.