Marijuana Lounges Have Nevada Casino Industry On Alert

Written By Martin Derbyshire on September 21, 2018

Most casino industry reaction to legal recreational marijuana use in Nevada continues to be way out of whack.

Fearing federal repercussions that aren’t likely to ever come around, some casinos have refused to do business with or take bets from anyone making money from the marijuana industry.

More recently, the Nevada Gaming Commission changed its policy on gambling while intoxicated to include anyone high on weed. It’s a move that allows some of these same casinos to adopt discriminatory anti-marijuana policies it can now apply to users and sellers alike.

Now, even an idea some casinos appear to support is under attack from the state’s leading gaming and resort advocacy group.

Many thought the war on drugs ended in Nevada when voters legalized recreational marijuana through a November 2016 referendum. Recreational sales kicked off on July 1, 2017. Now, they are quickly realizing it’s just being fought on a different front.

Marijuana lounges

Las Vegas City Council appeared headed towards passing an ordinance allowing marijuana lounges, where patrons 21 and up could smoke pot. However, Nevada Resort Association President Virginia Valentine chimed in this week, sending a letter to Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman claiming the idea creates all kinds of challenges for nearby casinos. Keep in mind the legal marijuana industry is young. The impact these lounges might have on the surrounding communities and businesses is not yet known.

The letter was also sent to the other members of the Las Vegas City Council including Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo and Las Vegas City Manager Scott Adams. It ultimately asks the city to delay opening the lounges until further information is available.

Until now, most casinos have been quiet on this issue. That may signal an understanding the lounges can actually reduce clandestine cannabis use on casino property.

Las Vegas City Council won’t touch the issue until late October or early November. It first wants to weigh input from all interested parties.

However, the Council will be better off listening to the kind of things casinos have said about marijuana lounges previously, rather than the Nevada Resort Association.

Sands shows support

Speaking in favor of marijuana lounges last year, Las Vegas Sands Corp. SVP Andy Abboud told the Clark County marijuana advisory panel lounges will reduce the number of tourists smuggling marijuana into hotel rooms. Ideally, less people will be smoking where they shouldn’t be once they’re up and running.

It was an early indication that not all casinos are willing to bury their heads in the sand on marijuana issues. It’s an idea more should get behind, particularly if they want to be part of what is clearly a big change in the local tourism industry.

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Casinos must face realities of marijuana

People have always flocked to Las Vegas because of its anything-goes attitude and Sin City image. Legalized recreational marijuana only helps bolster that image. Plus, it’s a comforting notion to tourists that a weekend of debauchery will likely keep their criminal record clean.

This is about more than just allowing the city to pass an ordinance authorizing marijuana lounges.

Casinos need to realize that legal pot is one of the big reasons people are coming to Nevada. Look at the proof in the revenue numbers. The first full year of legal marijuana sales in Nevada totaled close to $530 million. These are numbers that top every other state with legal weed, and ones that can be mostly attributed to tourism.

Considering that, isn’t it about time casinos start adopting more marijuana-friendly policies.

Marijuana lounges are just a good start. Casinos need to find a way to accept state law and stop treating anyone associated with pot like a criminal. The grass, and the money, is simply greener on that side.

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Martin Derbyshire

Martin Derbyshire has more than ten years of experience reporting on the poker, online gambling, and land-based casino industries for a variety of publications including Bluff Magazine, PokerNews, and PokerListings. He has traveled extensively, attending tournaments and interviewing major players in the gambling world.

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