Americans have mixed opinions about marijuana, casinos don’t

Published on: September 11, 2022, 11:24 am.

Last updated: September 11, 2022, 12:15 p.m.

Americans are divided when it comes to opinions on how marijuana use affects society.

Las Vegas marijuana, cannabis, gambling
A person holds a joint of marijuana with the Las Vegas Strip in the background. Americans have opposing views when it comes to deciding whether marijuana has a positive or negative impact on society. (Image: Shutterstock)

An August Gallup poll found that 49 percent of U.S. adults believe legal cannabis has a positive impact on society, while 50 percent say marijuana use is far more detrimental. Thirty-eight states today allow the legal sale of cannabis, whether recreationally, medicinally, or a combination of both.

Casinos, engaged in another so-called “sin industry” with gambling, must stay away from the cannabis industry. And that’s only getting more difficult as legal marijuana shops continue to flourish across the country.

Both commercial and tribal casinos are required by federal law to stay away from cannabis. That’s because the US Drug Enforcement Administration claims marijuana is a Schedule 1 narcotic – the same classification as heroin and LSD. This is defined as having a high potential for abuse and no legitimate medical applications.

State gaming laws, along with federal banking regulations under the Bank Secrecy Act, require commercial casinos not to engage in cannabis businesses or related parties. During the 2014 Bank Secrecy Act conference in Las Vegas, the feds went so far as to encourage casinos to ban people who work in the marijuana industry from entering their gaming venues.

Tribal casinos are not immune

Tribal casinos are sometimes given a bit more regulatory leniency than their commercial counterparts because the venues operate under Native American sovereign jurisdictions. But that’s not the case when it comes to cannabis.

Class III Indian casinos, the class that allows a tribal casino to operate slot machines and table games, are regulated by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). Passed in 1988, the IGRA established the governance framework to allow federally recognized tribes to ensure their economic prosperity by operating casino gambling on their sovereign lands.

IGRA allows federal tribes to enter into Class III gaming contracts with their host state. But those contracts must comply with all “applicable federal laws and regulations,” IGRA requires.

Chances of federal impeachment remain long, as 60 votes are needed in the US Senate to bypass a filibuster. Although the US House voted to decriminalize cannabis in April, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Elimination Act has stalled in the Senate.

Gallup poll finds support for marijuana continues to skew Democrats. A majority of Democrats — 60 percent — told Gallup they view cannabis favorably. Only 34 percent of Republicans agreed.

Casinos and cannabis crossroads

With marijuana legal in some form in several states, casinos are closer than ever to an industry that gaming properties just can’t touch. It has become a massive regulatory concern over the past decade, as casino security, dealers, servers and other customer-facing workers must regularly screen guests for cannabis intoxication.

Anyone who has recently set foot on the Las Vegas Strip is well aware that public marijuana use is rampant. Although technically illegal because Nevada’s cannabis law limits consumption to private residences and future regulated marijuana lounges, law enforcement rarely cites an individual for violating the consumption statute.

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