Do Most Gamblers Smoke?

November 30, 2006


Dr. Chris A. Pritsos, Principal Investigator
University of Nevada, Reno College of Agriculture

Phone: 775-784-6443
Dr. Pritsos will be available for interviews on Friday, Dec. 1, from 9:30 a.m. to noon.

Cynthia Hallett, Executive Director
Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights

Phone: (510) 841-3032

Do Most Gamblers Smoke?
New study shows 4 out of 5 casino patrons are nonsmokers

Reno, NV – A new study by a University of Nevada, Reno researcher suggests that laws to make casinos completely smokefree will not affect the economic bottom line, as once feared. In fact, the study shows that in Nevada the percentage of gamblers who are also smokers is well below the 70 percent figure used by opponents of measures that would make public places 100% smokefree.

“This has been a big issue not only for Nevada but nationally and internationally, wherever gaming is allowed,” said Chris Pritsos, principal investigator and a professor of nutrition at the University. “These issues have recently come to the forefront with the ballot initiatives, Questions 4 and 5, during the last election in Nevada, as well as a recent Atlantic City, New Jersey City Council proposed ordinance that would prohibit smoking in Atlantic City casinos."

Pritsos, working with state health agencies and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in formulating, funding and executing the study, surveyed the state’s primary tourist/casino centers: Las Vegas, Reno/Sparks and Lake Tahoe. The study included more than 17,000 gamblers. It gave similar results for all three locales: 21.5 percent of gamblers in Las Vegas were also smokers; 22.6 percent of gamblers in Reno/Sparks were also smokers; 17 percent of gamblers in Lake Tahoe were also smokers.

"These percentages are very similar to the overall percentage of the U.S. population that smokes, which is 20.9 percent," Pritsos said. “These numbers are far below the 70 percent figure that is often put forward by pro-smoking groups and individuals."

Cynthia Hallett, Executive Director of Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, said, "Before today, the gaming industry has estimated that up to 70 percent of their patrons smoke. They have used that figure to rationalize allowing secondhand smoke to fill their casinos, smoke that also seeps into lungs of thousands of casino workers and patrons day after day." She added, "Casino workers deserve the same rights as other workers, including the right to a healthy safe workplace, free from toxic secondhand smoke."

These new figures are of critical interest to policymakers and casino workers in Atlantic City, one of the hottest gambling destinations in the United States, hundreds of casino workers and patrons gathered this month to demand smokefree work environments. Casino floors are currently exempt from the New Jersey state smokefree law. Atlantic City's City Council is now considering closing that loophole to make all casinos smokefree. The smokefree casino ordinance passed the first reading with unanimous Council support. The final reading is expected in December.

"After the release of this report, we hope gaming proprietors will emphatically support smokefree laws, considering the vast majority of their customers are nonsmokers. The fear of losing business is tobacco industry rhetoric. The truth is that casinos will not lose business if they go smokefree. In fact, they may see some new customers come in the door as a result," said Hallett.

The full study is available at:

Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights is a national, member-based, not-for-profit organization based in Berkeley, CA that is dedicated to helping nonsmokers breathe smokefree air in enclosed public places and workplaces.