The notice on the door to the hotel-casino was emphatic. “The Westin Casuarina is a Smoke Free Environment. Thank you for not smoking.” Just beyond, four people were hunched over slot machines the other afternoon, wisps of cigarette smoke swirling around them as they happily puffed away.
And it was perfectly legal. “This is good,” said Ray Wan, a flight attendant from Hawaii, lighting up a cigarette as the slot machine beeped and whirled before him.
At a time when much of the rest of the nation — indeed much of the rest of the world — is on a crusade to banish smoking in public, the casinos of Las Vegas have emerged as a smokers’ oasis, perhaps the last place free from the restrictions that have spread from restaurants to bars to malls to cars carrying children. Nevada law trumps Westin policy.
No matter that Nevada voters overwhelmingly approved a ban on public smoking four years ago: the powerful gambling industry made certain that it included an exception for casinos. Blackjack dealers and croupiers, alarmed about second-hand smoke, are pressing a $5 million federal class action lawsuit filed against the Wynn Las Vegas, to force the hotel to protect casino workers who have to sit in smoke-misted rooms. But the most the plaintiff’s lawyers expect from the case is the installation of high-technology air cleansing devises.
Even the ominous warning labels for cigarette packages proposed by health regulators on Wednesday seem unlikely to make a difference here.
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