November 18, 2021
Churchill Successfully Operates Smokefree Gaming Venues Across Its Portfolio
Decision Comes Following Letter From Advocates Urging Gaming Commission to Prioritize Applicants Committed to Operating a Smokefree Indoors Facility
Berkeley, CA— Advocates applauded a decision by the Indiana Gaming Commission last night granting a gaming license for Vigo County to Churchill Downs, a gaming company with a long track record of operating smokefree indoor properties. The decision comes following public comments submitted to the Commission from Americans for Nonsmoker’s Rights (ANR) urging commissioners to prioritize license applicants who commit to operating smokefree indoors.
“We congratulate Churchill Downs for winning the license to operate the Queen of Terre Haute casino,” said Cynthia Hallett, president and CEO of ANR. “Churchill Downs has a strong record of successfully operating smokefree across their portfolio of gaming properties and we encourage them to continue their commitment to prioritizing the health and safety of their guests and employees. Not only do Hoosiers, by a two-to-one margin, say they’d be more likely to visit a casino if its smokefree indoors, but they also believe casino workers should not be forced to work in a smoke-filled environment — to choose between their health and a paycheck.”
In the letter sent to the Commission ahead of their decision, Hallett raised the concerns that casinos without smokefree policies create extremely unhealthy conditions for their employees and debunked claims by some casino executives regarding the effectiveness of filtration systems against secondhand smoke.
“Work environments with secondhand smoke are unsafe and, when they exist in the gaming industry, exacerbate existing health disparities. According to a report issued by the American Gaming Association (AGA), the casino industry employs a far more diverse workforce than most other industries in America. Per the AGA’s own count, not only do women make up nearly half of gaming’s workforce, 45% of the workforce is composed of people of color and nearly 20% of gaming employees are Hispanic. Permitting smoking in this Vigo County casino would only exacerbate existing disparities in health outcomes among communities that largely make up the industry’s frontline workers, while at the same time casino executives work in smokefree offices.”
“Many in the industry claim that their advanced air filtration systems protect workers from the well-established harms of secondhand smoke. These claims are false, and the engineers who design those ventilation systems say they don’t solve the problem. These engineers, from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, warn that even the best filtration and ventilation systems ‘are not effective against secondhand smoke’ and ‘can reduce only odor and discomfort but cannot eliminate exposure…There is no currently available or reasonably anticipated ventilation or air cleaning system that can adequately control or significantly reduce the health risks of [environmental tobacco smoke] to an acceptable level.’ Gaming companies should never be mistaken for public health or engineering experts.”
ABOUT AMERICANS FOR NONSMOKERS’ RIGHTS
Americans for Nonsmoker’s Rights (ANR) is a member-supported, non-profit advocacy group that has been working for 45 years, since 1976, to protect everyone’s right to breathe nontoxic air in workplaces and public places, from offices and airplanes to restaurants, bars, and casinos. ANR has continuously shined a light on the tobacco industry’s interference with sound and life-saving public health measures and successfully protected 61% of the population with local or statewide smokefree workplace, restaurant, and bar laws. ANR aims to close gaps in smokefree protections for workers in all workplaces, including bars, music venues, casinos, and hotels. For more information, please visit https://no-smoke.org/ and https://smokefreecasinos.org/.