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Bally’s shareholders reject casino smoking study proposal

Boyd shareholders rejected a similar effort, but proponents said they are heartened the idea got as far as it did and could bring the issue back next year.
Howard Stutz
Howard Stutz
EconomyGaming
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Bally’s Corp. shareholders rejected a proposal that could have led to a smoking ban inside the company’s casinos. But proponents are hopeful the final margin will allow them to bring the measure up for a vote again next year. 

The vote Thursday was the second defeat for groups affiliated with the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation (ANRF), a nonprofit that has long advocated banning smoking on casino floors.

Shareholders for Bally’s, Boyd Gaming and Caesars Entertainment recently qualified proposals for annual stockholder meetings that would have required management to commission a report on potential cost savings from implementing a smoke-free policy 

Bally’s, which operates Bally’s Lake Tahoe and is still under contract for the operations of the shuttered Tropicana Las Vegas, held its annual shareholder meeting virtually Thursday where the proposal was rejected. 

In a filing Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Bally’s said almost 24 million shares voted against the proposal and more than 3.1 million shares favored the smoking study.

On Monday, Boyd Gaming said more than 63.6 million shareholder votes were cast against the question, with 18.5 million in favor. 

Because the votes by Bally’s and Boyd’s shareholders exceeded 5 percent support, proponents can resubmit the question for the 2025 shareholder meetings. 

ANRF CEO Cynthia Hallett said in a statement after the Boyd vote that the proponents were gratified the proposal found support from more than 22 percent of the casino company’s voting shareholders.

"We’ve established an incredibly strong foundation from which to build,” Hallett said of the Boyd vote. “Most proposals don’t even make it to a vote, let alone reach double-digit-level support. With this issue now reaching the boardroom, companies cannot hide from this important matter that affects the health and well-being of their employees and guests.”

Caesars’ shareholder meeting is scheduled for June 11.

The three companies opposed the effort to commission the study, which was also backed by Trinity Health, a national, nonprofit health care network. ANRF is a policy organization that has targeted the gaming industry — which has been legally carved out of laws otherwise banning indoor smoking — since the 1980s. 

Initially, Boyd, Caesars and Bally’s asked the SEC for permission to remove the shareholder smoking study proposal from their proxy statements — a regulatory-required document companies provide to shareholders with information about voting matters during annual meetings. The agency rejected the requests.

“Passing a proposal opposed by the company requires significant education with our fellow shareholders,” Hallett said. “So we’re very pleased by this vote that will allow us to continue to seek more information about the costs the company bears by continuing to allow indoor smoking.”

Updated at 3:33 p.m. p.m. on 5/17/2024 to include Bally’s shareholder vote totals.

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