Waiter With Terminal Lung Cancer Sues Crown Melbourne Casino Over Smoking Exemption in High Roller Room

  • Dien Nguyen worked for six years in the high roller room that allowed smoking
  • He is seeking damages, costs, and interest to pay his medical expenses
  • Smoking indoors at US casinos is also currently a hot topic of conversation
People playing poker in a smoky room
A waiter at the Crown Melbourne who now has terminal lung cancer is suing the casino for allowing indoor smoking in the high roller room without protecting workers. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

No warnings

A waiter who has terminal lung cancer is suing the Crown Melbourne casino, alleging that his time working in the high roller room, which had a special exemption from the Victorian government to allow smoking, led to his condition.

Dien Nguyen received his metastatic lung cancer diagnosis in 2020, having been a full-time worker in the Mahogany Room for six years. The lawsuit explains that the 39-year-old was working “in an environment heavily contaminated with smoke from cigarettes and cigars” and claims that the casino operator knew or should have known that employees would be at risk of getting serious lung disease from working in such an environment.

did not have a proper ventilation system in place

The allegations include that Crown did not warn staff of the potential dangers, failed to measure or test the levels of smoke in the room, and did not have a proper ventilation system in place. Nguyen also claimed that Crown had received notifications and complaints before 2017 of employees developing serious lung diseases as a result of their exposure to the smoke.

A dangerous exemption

Nguyen is seeking damages, costs, and interest from the company so that he can pay for nursing and medical expenses. The managing director of the law firm that is representing Nguyen said that Crown and the state government “willingly exposed workers” to health risks by allowing the exemption for so long. Lee Flanagan noted that the region’s indoor smoking ban came into effect in 2007, which meant that patrons and workers at the casino were exposed to smoke for more than a decade after.

smoking exemption is no longer in place

The smoking exemption is no longer in place at the Crown Melbourne. The Victorian government got rid of it after a recommendation from a royal commission that was investigating the casino operator, while Crown itself outlined its plans in March 2021 to transition to a smoke-free property by the end of 2022.

A big issue in the US

It’s not just an issue in Australia, with unions in certain US states campaigning to try to bring an end to indoor smoking at gambling facilities. Smoking is currently permitted on 25% of a casino floor in Atlantic City, which is an exemption to the 2006 indoor smoking ban.

Employees who developed health issues have been lobbying lawmakers to pass legislation that would close this loophole. One of the main opposing arguments is that a smoking ban in casinos might result in properties seeing a 10%-25% drop in revenue, which could lead to closures and job losses.

Other states that have casino workers pushing for smoking bans include Kansas, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.

The temporary ban on indoor smoking in Nevada that went into place during the COVID-19 pandemic is no longer in effect. Some properties in the state do have non-smoking areas on gaming floors, while the Park MGM became the Strip’s first smoke-free casino in 2020.  

A report that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released in February says that the only way to protect patrons and workers at casinos from second-hand smoke is a total ban. The sole Las Vegas casino that had safe air quality around its property was the Park MGM.

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