Are Casinos Doing Enough for the Environment?

Climate change is hitting headlines, but are casinos doing their bit to save the environment? Some casinos are taking important steps to reduce their carbon footprints. Are casinos as green as they say they are, or is it better to do your gambling online?

A view of Las Vegas strip at nighttime, lit up with neon casino signs

Las Vegas is famous for its twinkling neon lights

Tourists are drawn to the glitz and glamor of casinos, like moths to a light bulb. The flashing lights, loud music and fancy water fountains – casinos are all about putting on a show. But is all this excess having a negative impact on the environment? Climate change is an issue that many industries are struggling to address. Some deny that it is a problem, or that it exists. The effects of global warming are manifest in the form of extreme weather like floods, tsunamis and forest fires. The causes are rooted in our every day lives – unsustainable energy consumption and pollution. In response, the general public is learning to make positive changes such as recycling and switching to green alternatives. An attitude-change is vital, but without the support of big industries worldwide, it is a drop in the ocean.

Casinos do have numerous positive effects on local economies. They are a huge draw for tourists, which in turn provide local jobs and bring money into the area. The opulence does come at a significant environmental cost though.

Las Vegas – The Gambling Capital of the World

Let’s take Las Vegas for example. Las Vegas is famous for it’s twinkling neon lights and dazzling casinos, pulling in millions of visitors from across the globe every year. It has been stated that Las Vegas city has committed to running on 100% renewable energy. This is something of a misleading claim. What it really means is that all of Las Vegas’ state government buildings and public utilities are running off clean energy. It’s a start, but evidently more could be done to make the gambling capital a greener place. So, what can Las Vegas’ casinos do to help the planet?

The main issue that Las Vegas faces is its tough climate. The near constant sunshine draws tourists in, but the heat means air conditioning is a necessity. No one wants to sit on a casino floor in the scorching 100°F temperatures that the Nevada deserts frequently hit in the summer months. Air conditioning racks up a huge energy bill – and when that energy source isn’t green, it racks up a big carbon footprint too. Air conditioning units use hydrofluorocarbons as their main refrigerant. These are powerful greenhouse gases and they significantly contribute to global warming.

It’s clear that casinos need to be responsible for the carbon footprint they produce on their own premises. However, the fact is that their impact spreads much further than the casino doors. Tourists don’t turn up by magic, so transport is a big issue. The majority of visitors to Las Vegas come via air travel. Planes are a big culprit when it comes to global warming and are proving hazardous for our health. They emit particles and gases such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and lead, all of which pollute the atmosphere. Some casino visitors will travel by car or rail, but over recent years air travel has continued to rise in popularity. The fact is that it is often cheap, convenient and fast to come by plane.

The sheer number of tourists that flock to Las Vegas has a huge impact on Nevada’s environment. Big crowds produce a lot of litter, creating a plastic problem that could take a thousand years to go away. We might be conscious of maintaining good recycling habits when we’re at home, but attitudes tend to be a bit more laissez-faire on holiday.

Aerial view of Las Vegas’ famous water fountain shows, highlighting casino water usage.

Casinos can continue to hold fabulous fountain shows with a clean conscience.

What Are Casinos Doing to Combat Climate Change?

Mandalay Bay Hotel & Resort is one example of how casinos can do their bit for the earth. They have installed solar panels on their roof, taking full advantage of the energy source Vegas certainly isn’t short of – sunshine. Lots of Vegas casinos are doing the same too. Using sustainable energy sources is one thing, but reducing energy consumption overall is key. This is why taking actions such as replacing older light fittings with eco LED lights is important.

Another issue for this dry desert city is water. The city’s public water comes from Lake Mead, the Hoover Dam reservoir. Many casinos use their own underground wells, which helps to minimize the impact on local water levels. This means that casinos can continue to have elaborate water fountain shows without a big environmental impact. This is not to say that Vegas casinos aren’t responsible when it comes to water usage. New technology is constantly being utilized to lower water consumption. Glass water filters in the pool, low-flow toilets and showers, sensible landscaping and recycling water for cooling systems – these are just some of the methods that are being used to manage water resources responsibly.

Visitors to Vegas casinos and hotels might think that they are recycling-free zones. Actually, most resorts do recycle behind the scenes. It has proven easier to hire contractors to do the recycling or to sort rubbish manually, rather than ask the public to do it. Nevada Division of Environmental Protection educates and encourages businesses and the public to recycle. Waste that cannot be recycled is often composted and can be sent for agricultural use. Unused food that is still edible is sent to food banks where it feeds those in need.

Are Online Casinos a Viable Green Alternative?

It is evident that many casinos are making efforts to reduce their carbon footprints, but can they compete with online casinos? Computers, tablets and mobiles all have an impact on the planet when they are made, due to the finite resources used to create them. But when these electronic devices already exist in most homes, it does seem better than the alternative. Travelling to and gambling in physical casinos involves burning fuel and consuming far more energy than staying at home. Not everyone has access to online casinos, as they are not legal everywhere. They are commonplace in Europe, but this hasn’t been the case in the US. In recent years, since the PASPA act was overturned, individual US states have been able to pass their own legislation to allow online gambling. As this is being rolled out across the US, consumers can now gamble in a greener way than ever before.

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A person playing a slots machine in a brightly lit casino

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