Are Casinos Really Accessible to All?

Posted by: on Nov 14, 2016 | No Comments

Free markets and healthcare are unlikely bedfellows, if you look at the traditional dichotomy between these two. One issue that comes up is that of barriers to accessibility that take different guises. While the ancient Latin proverb, ‘Caveat emptor (‘Let the buyer beware’) suggests that the buyers are responsible for judging the quality of products or services they are buying, there are some things that slip the net of social conscience and resurface as part of another problem.

What Gets in the Way of Access

The American Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990, and it prescribed by federal law that all publicly accessible establishments, such as hotels, resorts and casinos, must make their facilities accessible for all patrons, including those with disabilities. If any signs of discrimination or lack of access surface, then the ADA authorizes the initiation of a civil lawsuit in a federal US court. This is exactly the course of action people with disabilities have chosen in the recent past.

In 2008, a disabled man from Atlantic City was hassled by the number of ‘architectural barriers’ that he encountered and sued ten casinos including three of President-Elect Donald Trump’s Trump Entertainment Resorts, Bally’s Atlantic City, Caesars Atlantic City, Harrah’s Resort, Showboat Casino Hotel and Tropicana Casino and Resort. The issue was that gaming tables, keno counters, ticket booths, cash registers and other places in the casinos are too high to reach for people in wheelchairs. Similarly, slot machines are blocked by fixed seats that make it impossible for wheelchairs to gain access or impair access with poorly constructed aisles.

The upshot of it was that federal prosecutors decreed to review a number of hotels and casinos in Atlantic City to determine if they are accessible for patrons with special needs. Not just the facilities in casinos which only accommodate the disabled in a limited way, hotel employees need to do a better job of communicating with the disabled. As far as the industry is concerned, stereotypes exist that people with disabilities should have only entry-level jobs and are not capable of doing higher level jobs.

Incidentally, Donald Trump, whose casinos are among the ten mentioned in the suit, is no great respecter of Americans with disabilities. His properties have been sued a number of times over by the ADA and in once instance, the buses that ferry people to his Atlantic City casino were taken to court in 2003 for not providing wheelchair access. In fact, in 2011, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey conducted a compliance review of certain casinos and hotels in Atlantic City, New Jersey to determine whether these were operating in compliance with the ADA. They found that the Trump Taj Mahal was nearly inaccessible for people with disabilities.

The fact of the matter is that even people with disabilities love to gamble at casinos, and they use public transportation to get there. According to a survey done by Access-A-Ride, casinos are the 17th most requested destination for Access-A-Ride users who can ask for trips anywhere in the city.

The US law requires commercial operations to ensure public areas are accessible to all customers. Of course, the law does not take into consideration financial viability. Casino owners need to find that formula which makes following this law justified from a financial perspective. Else, it would be a disabled casino industry.

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