Lake Tahoe casinos wary of smoke-free gambling | SierraSun.com

Lake Tahoe casinos wary of smoke-free gambling

Annie Flanzraich
Sierra Sun

Sierra Sun/Jen SchmidtWhile one smoke-free Nevada casino held its grand-opening Saturday, other casino executives on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe said smoke-free gambling might not be a viable option for them.

LAKE TAHOE ” While one smoke-free Nevada casino held its grand-opening Saturday, other casino executives on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe said smoke-free gambling might not be a viable option for them.

“The problem is that its been tried before very unsuccessfully,” said Bill Wood, general manager of the Crystal Bay Casino. “From a personal view, I would be all for it, but I don’t want to be the first kid on the block to try it.”

Wood said adopting a smoke-free environment could have a negative economic affect on the Crystal Bay Casino.

In Incline Village, Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe General Manager Mark Pardue said that while the casino has not ruled out smoke-free gambling, it is not actively pursing the idea at this time.

“We are concerned about the impact it could have on gambling,” he said. “We haven’t dismissed it, but we’re obviously reluctant to do anything in these trying economic times.”

However, economics is the reason Scott Tate, general manager of the Fernley Nugget, decided to pursue a smoke-free environment in his casino, holding its grand opening this weekend.

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“This was a pure business decision,” Tate said of his Fernley, Nev. location. “We thought the time was right and the market was right and our location was right.”

Tate said he would not classify himself as an anti-smoking activist.

Since its Nov. 5 opening, Tate said the casino is performing as expected.

“We’ve received very positive reactions for our guests, both the smoking and non-smoking patrons,” Tate said.

The casino also offers an outdoor smoking patio for patrons who choose to smoke.

‘I’m not a proponent of a smoke-free environment as much as I’m a proponent of choice,” he said.

The same company that owns the Fernley Nugget also owns the Fallon Nugget, the Fallon Bonanza Inn, the Silver Springs Nugget, and the Comstock and Cactus Jack’s Senator Club in Carson City.

Nevada voters approved a ballot measure in 2006 banning smoking at restaurants, bars that serve food and around slot machines at supermarkets, gas stations and convenience stores. The ban does not apply to the gambling floors of casinos.

After voter approval of the measure, Bill’s Lake Tahoe Casino in Stateline, Nev. became the first casino to go totally smokeless at Lake Tahoe and one of the first casinos to voluntarily impose such a ban in the nation.

Last month the Atlantic City, N.J., council repealed a ban on smoking it enacted in April, citing economic reasons.

The smoking ban took effect Oct. 15 and ended Nov. 16.

However, some activist groups believe that smoke-free gambling should not be an economic issue, but a health issue.

“Whether they’re making money or losing money, casinos will find a reason to blame smoking bans on any economic revenues without substantiating any evidence,” said Stephanie Steinberg, chairwoman of the Colorado-based Smoke-Free Gaming association.

Steinberg said her group is making inroads in Nevada, talking to gamblers and casino workers.

“This is not an economic issue,” she said. “This is about the health of the public and the health of the workers.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.