US casino boss challenges Spain’s smoking ban

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 13 September 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f5598
  1. Aser García Rada
  1. 1Madrid

A US gambling magnate is challenging Spain’s laws banning smoking in enclosed public spaces by demanding that tobacco consumption be allowed in the casino that he plans to build in Madrid. It is predicted to be the largest gambling resort in Europe.

Sheldon Adelson, chairman of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, a Nevada based casino and resort operating company, and the 12th richest American according to the Forbes list, announced his latest project earlier this year. It was promptly dubbed EuroVegas, because of its resemblance to the Nevada gambling city.

Anti-tobacco campaigners are alarmed by the idea that smoking might be allowed there, because they fear it will be just the first step in reversing the recent antismoking laws in Spain. In 2006, Spain banned smoking in enclosed working environments, and in 2010 the law was extended to cover bars and restaurants.1 The bans took many years to achieve,2 and have already had beneficial effects, the campaigners say.

According to the Spanish National Institute of Statistics, the proportion of smokers in the population fell from 26% in 2006 to 24% in 2012, the lowest in 25 years. The incidence of heart attacks has fallen by 11% since the 2006 legislation was established.3 Moreover, the European Commission has stated that Spain experienced a 70% fall from 2009 to 2012 in the proportion of people exposed to second hand smoking, the biggest fall among EU member states in that period. The average fall in the EU was 46%.4

Campaigners fear that Adelson will get his way because of the predicted economic benefits of the casino. He is claiming that the casino will bring 200 000 jobs to the area and prosperity to the region.

Though the central government has stated that “at present” there are no plans to amend the law, the president of the autonomous community of Madrid, Ignacio González, from the conservative People’s Party, has called for an exception to be made.

Health professionals are fighting the proposals. An umbrella body of different tobacco control organisations in Spain ( has launched the campaign “Don’t touch the law” ( to get international support to prevent the change.

Francisco Rodríguez, president of the Spanish National Committee for Smoking Prevention, told the BMJ, “With these laws [banning smoking in public places] tobacco consumption has been denormalised. Allowing smoking in the casinos would be a tremendous step backwards that could have a contagious effect on other sectors.”


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f5598


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