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Strip resort sued over second-hand smoke

Wynn Las Vegas suit follows similar suit filed against Caesars Palace

Updated Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2009 | 9:22 a.m.

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A second Las Vegas Strip casino is being sued over allegations that the health of employees is being affected by second-hand smoke.

A suit seeking class action status to represent all affected workers was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas by Wynn Las Vegas employee Kanie Kastroll against the casino resort and its parent company Wynn Resorts Ltd.

The suit was filed by law firms including KamberEdelson LLC of Chicago, which in July filed a similar suit against Harrah's Entertainment's Caesars Palace hotel-casino.

Attorneys for Harrah's and Caesars have not yet filed their answer to that complaint. That suit has also not completed the significant legal hurdle of being certified as a class action.

Wynn Las Vegas and Wynn Resorts had no comment on the Wynn suit Wednesday, citing their policy of not commenting on pending litigation.

The suit alleges exposure to smoke is causing eye irritation, coughing, sore throat, sneezing, shortness of breath, dizziness, wheezing, tightness in the chest, asthma, headache, nausea and ingestion of cancer-causing chemicals and toxins.

The suit claims some Las Vegas resorts have taken measures to minimize second-hand smoke on their gaming floors. MGM Mirage's Bellagio has a high-tech air filtration system designed to minimize such smoke while Las Vegas Sands Corp.'s Palazzo hotel-casino built "smoke-free corridors" in its gaming area and designated 50 percent of its casino floor as non-smoking, the lawsuit says.

"Wynn Las Vegas, however, continues to gamble with its employees' health and welfare in order to cut costs and maintain the status quo," the suit charges, alleging Wynn has not designated certain sections of the gaming area as smoke-free, doesn't allow dealers to have fans on their tables, hasn't monitored the health of employees subjected to smoke and hasn"t helped employees harmed by smoke.

The lawsuit alleges floor supervisors can designate tables as nonsmoking, but only at the request of a patron.

"If a customer asks a dealer "do you mind if I smoke?", Wynn Las Vegas prefers its dealers to answer "no, not at all," even if the tobacco smoke does in fact bother the dealer and causes him or her adverse health effects," the suit charges. "Dealers who tell customers that second-hand smoke bothers them will likely be subject to discipline."

"Employees at Wynn Las Vegas are forbidden from complaining about the amount of second-hand smoke that they are forced to inhale and risk losing their jobs if they voice dissent," the suit charges.

The resort sometimes makes accommodations for casino employees who are pregnant, but only at the discretion of individual floor supervisors, the suit says.

The suit seeks an order requiring Wynn "to take reasonable measures to protect its employees from second-hand smoke" and unspecified costs and attorney's fees.

The suit against Caesars Palace noted Caesars and sister properties Bally's and Paris were included in a study released in May by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health finding casino dealers had traces of a tobacco-specific carcinogen in their urine.

The NIOSH report concluded: "Non-poker casino dealers at Bally’s, Paris, and Caesars Palace casinos are exposed to ETS (environmental tobacco smoke) in the workplace air, and have absorbed an ETS-specific component into their bodies, as demonstrated by detectable levels of urinary NNAL (a known lung carcinogen). The increase in NNAL in the urine of most non-poker casino dealers at the end of their work shift demonstrates that non-poker casino dealers are exposed to a known carcinogen in the tobacco smoke at the casinos. Non-poker casino dealers reported a higher prevalence of respiratory symptoms than to unexposed workers, but the results were not statistically significant. The best means of eliminating workplace exposure to ETS is to ban all smoking in the casinos."

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