LAS VEGAS — Richard Stockton College professors unveiling a survey they conducted on the effect a casino’s smoke-free policy would have on visitation drew few people at an annual gambling conference.
The poor attendance during a late afternoon session — held on the first day of four — may have reflected a general resistance the industry has toward such policies as much as it did a less-than-prime spot on the Global Gaming Expo’s schedule.
The session, led by professors from Richard Stockton College, cited studies showing gambling revenue declining by double digit percentage points in some states, such as in Colorado and Illinois, after smoking bans were instituted.
“It is the committed gamblers who are going to be influenced by a smoke-free policy,” Israel Posner, executive director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton, said Monday in unveiling the results of a survey the college conducted.
Stockton surveyed 3,000 people and found that smoking gamblers who wagered more than $250 were more concerned about the existence of a smoke-free policy than nonsmokers.
“The more gambling is important to them, they would be less likely to visit a smoke-free resort,” said Brian Tyrrell, an associate professor of Hospitality and Tourism Management Studies.
Gamblers who go on day trips are more opposed to smoke-free policies compared to those who go on vacation, the survey showed.
A larger percentage of table-game players were more concerned about smoking bans compared to those who played slot machines, professors said.
At the same time, the ranks of nonsmokers — about 80 percent of the adult population — are much larger than those of smokers. Separate studies also have shown that restaurants did not experience a decline in visits after smoking bans were instituted. That would suggest a large market exists for casino resorts, Tyrrell said.
Overall, only about 10 percent of the people who responded to the survey said a smoke-free policy would deter them from visiting a casino resort. Younger gamblers appeared less affected by the existence of a smoke-free policy than older ones, the professors said, adding they believed it was a generational difference.
“They have been inundated with marketing messages that (were) anti-smoking,” Tyrrell said.
The professors said that while the survey tracks visitor intent, it doesn’t track how much is spent on gambling by different categories of visitors.
“This is simply the number of people, it doesn’t tell you the type of person,” Posner said.
In practice, casinos have seen the time gamblers spend playing on machines decline when smoke-free policies are instituted, according to discussions during Monday’s session.
Several attempts to institute a complete smoking ban in Atlantic City casinos have failed. Revel, the city’s newest casino and the only one that offers a smoke-free environment, has been operating for only a few months — not enough time for researchers to determine whether the policy is affecting gambling revenues, they said.
Although survey results show table-game players more affected by smoking bans than slot machine gamblers, Revel has seen the opposite trend — with its table-game revenue performing better than its slot machines, researchers said.
“It requires a lot more attention than a cursory look,” Tyrrell said of Revel’s performance in light of its smoke-free policy.
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