A brief visit to Las Vegas for a professional conference gave me a better appreciation of regulations and their potential impact on people with addictive disorders. Perhaps more than in any other place where gambling has been legalized, regulations in Las Vegas are relaxed in ways which are favorable to gambling. This includes smoking in Las Vegas.
Wherever I went, I could feel the pressure to use slot machines. The machines are not only ubiquitous, they are unavoidable. Slot machines were the first things that I saw when I got out of the jetway from the airplane. I was forced to walk past them to get to get to the exits, which were marked so inconspicuously that I wandered through more slot machines before I could find my way out.
After checking in at the hotel lobby, the only way that I could get to my hotel room was to navigate through a jungle of strategically placed slot machines. They were arranged in what seemed to be a random manner rather than in orderly rows. I had read about this earlier, in the excellent but chilling book by Natasha Schull entitled Addiction by Design, as being a strategy intended to promote their use. I could find no clear path through the machines, which had a disorienting effect on me even though I had no interest in using them.
Having taken a tour of the Baltimore Horseshoe casino with the Maryland State Medical Society, I was not surprised to see liquor being served to the gamblers, predominantly women, at their seats. What I was not prepared for was the smell of tobacco from the cigarettes being smoked by many of the people who were simultaneously gambling and drinking. Not only was smoking allowed in the casino, it was not allowed anywhere else in the enormous convention center/hotel/restaurant/shopping complex. Smokers had only one place to go if they did not choose to go outside into the 107-degree heat. That’s the reality of smoking in Las Vegas.
The Baltimore casino employee who led our tour had made a point of focusing on the few slot machines with which smoking tobacco is allowed because they are located on the outdoor balconies facing Russell Street. “You know,” he said, “they are our most productive machines.” My trip to the Las Vegas casinos reinforced my sense that this was not a coincidence.
Las Vegas is a town in which gambling and drinking establishments never close. I did, however, find one place in this huge complex that shuts down tight at 8 PM – the fitness center. Not even your hotel key can get you in.
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