Smoking ban would prove casinos want to protect health

July 20, 2020 8:00 PM
  • Mark Gruetze, CDC Gaming Reports
July 20, 2020 8:00 PM
  • Mark Gruetze, CDC Gaming Reports

A leading YouTube influencer on a mission to extol the fun and excitement of slot machines has a message for casinos: If you’re serious about protecting health, ban smoking now.

“This is the best time to make this change,” says Brian Christopher, who has more than 300,000 YouTube followers for daily videos showing him playing slots at casinos throughout the United States. “If we make this change right now (after the coronavirus closures), people will come back. And they will stay and they will play. Nobody’s going to give up gambling just because they can’t have a cigarette while doing it.”

He says a survey on his site, available here, backs up his claim. The survey, written in conjunction with the American Nonsmokers Rights Foundation, is still accepting responses. As of July 18, Christopher says, 1,300 people had filled it out, with these results:

  • 20 percent of respondents are full-time smokers (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the most recent nationwide figure is 13.7 percent).
  • 78 percent say now is the time to make casinos smoke-free.
  • 82 percent of the smokers say they would patronize non-smoking casinos that offer an outdoor area with slot machines where smoking is allowed.
  • 94 percent of respondents believe secondhand smoke is harmful to health.

Christopher, originally from Canada, now lives in Los Angeles, where he moved several years ago in hopes of starting an acting career. That path hasn’t worked out yet, but he started posting videos of himself playing slots after a family trip to Las Vegas. In about three months, he had 4,349 subscribers and was invited to join the YouTube partner program, according to his blog. He put acting on hold and now has two YouTube channels, plus 70,000 followers on Facebook and 20,000 on Instagram. He says he’s the world’s number-one influencer on slot machines and casinos.

A few months after starting his YouTube slots channel, he attended the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, saw the ANRF booth and offered to help its campaign. The foundation is a non-lobbying, educational, nonprofit organization that provides resources for schools, health departments, medical organizations, and others interested in issues involving smoking and secondhand smoke. Its projects include SmokeFreeCasinos.org, which focuses on secondhand smoking risks to staff and customers in America’s commercial and tribal casinos and other gaming facilities.

A former smoker, Christopher says America’s smoking rules flabbergasted him. “My jaw hit the floor when I saw people smoking in casinos still,” he says. “I had no idea that people could still do that anywhere in the world.”

The foundation has sponsored some of Christopher’s casino trips, as have casinos and slot manufacturers. Christopher says all his gambling money comes from his own pocket.

His current travel plans include a stop in Oklahoma, five days in Maryland, then on to Oregon and back to Oklahoma for four days. He posts at least one 30- to 90-minute video every day and does two to four live streams per week.

He declines to give his age publicly, but classifies himself as a Millennial, the generation that supposedly doesn’t enjoy slot machines. “I love everything about slots,” he says. “It’s the thrill, the excitement. And it’s something I’ve done with my friends a lot.”

Casinos trying to attract Millennials should do a better job of soliciting their opinions and listening to them, he says, rather than doing what they think is exciting. “We (Millennials) are different birds, and we do like to keep our money more,” he says. “We’ve learned that from our parents.”

He says his father worked his life at a job he did not like, staying only because it paid a good wage.

“He instilled in me to make sure you follow your dreams and your passions and be happy and not follow the buck. I think that’s what our generation is all about. We do want to have fun, but we also want to be responsible about it and not throw all our money away.”

He noted that more than 150 casinos nationwide have become nonsmoking, at least temporarily, since the coronavirus shutdowns. He urges casinos to make that change permanent.

“It’s really important to look outside of the United States at countries that have made the change and have made it work,” he says. The smoke-free approach protects staff, reduces sick days, and cuts expenses such as ventilation and cleaning.

“Honestly, if you really want to earn long-term gamblers,” Christopher adds, “wouldn’t you want them to live longer?”

Mark Gruetze is a veteran journalist from suburban Pittsburgh who covers casino gaming issues and personalities.