I recently attended a professional conference near a large casino. Naturally, I was drawn like a moth to the flame. I decided to drop by and make a small donation to the cause. After all, at least it would buy me the privilege of sitting on an uncomfortable stool and damaging my retinas for a couple of hours. My only hesitation, however, was my sanctimonious aversion to cigarette smoke. As you may know, an impenetrable wall of smoke sits immediately inside the entrance of every casino. Federal law requires this. Casinos face stiff fines if the smoke plume hovering over the main floor drops beneath a specific density. If a federal regulator with 20/20 vision can see through the cloud past the third slot machine, he is required to shut the casino down until the casino can reach acceptable plume density. But lucky for me, this casino advertised Smoke Free Slots.
The gambling industry likes to refer to itself as the gaming industry. (Another name for it is the mob, but you might be wise to steer clear of that little descriptor, unless you’re on good terms with your orthopedic surgeon.) The term gaming apparently puts people in a better mood to drop next month’s rent in pursuit of a jackpot.
Like most middle-aged folks, I grew up around people who smoked. We never thought about it. Someone might ask, “Mind if I smoke?” as they lit up in your home or car. Or they might not. And car ashtrays were for ashes, not spare change. Ashtrays were everywhere, every table of every restaurant. You were never ten feet from an ashtray. Now we refer to secondhand smoke in the same tone we reserve for the term radioactive death plume. It’s now socially acceptable to remove the tire iron from your car and bludgeon anyone who lights up within 25 feet of you. Especially in my state. My state has outlawed even displaying a cigarette in public. People react as though you’re brandishing a Colt .45.
Except in casinos.
In states that have banned smoking in public places, not only is smoking banned from restaurants, but in venues where smokers have traditionally hung out – bars, pool halls, bowling alleys. Casinos are the smokers’ last refuge. It was into this lion’s den I entered to enjoy their Smoke Free Slots.
I’m not an architect or an environmental engineer, but as I made my way through the doorway and down the hall to the Smoke Free Slots, I looked to my left and noticed what appeared to be a minor design flaw. There was no wall separating the Smoke Free Slots from the main casino floor. The designer also forgot one of his fourth grade science lessons – the one about smoke rising. The floor of the Smoke Free Slots area was elevated from the main floor. I had to hand it to them though. There was noticeably less smoke hovering over the Smoke Free Slots. The haze was akin to LA on a crisp spring day when the coastal breezes are blowing 30 to 40 percent of the smog inland.
I walked to the farthest back corner and took a seat. My eyes were tingling only slightly from the mildly smoky, smoke-free air, so I fed the machine a bill. No sooner had the machine swallowed my money when a burly guy in a windbreaker plopped down in front of the machine next to me. He fed it a twenty, and yes, simultaneously lit up a butt. In his defense, I feel compelled to admit, How was he to know? But that was it for me. This was the point of my swift surrender and hasty retreat.
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