Can Gambling Be Green?

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55 million Americans played poker in 2005. Las Vegas’ poker industry alone accounts for billions of dollars and players fly around the world to attend high stakes championships. Casinos like the Monte Carlo can have annual energy costs upwards of $5 million. It’s a far cry from eco-friendly…or is it?

You might not immediately associate flashy card games in energy intensive, 24-hour casinos with eco-sensitivity, but even the poker industry is trying to make strides in the green economy.

It’s no news that world poker tours are a carbon suck; flying a few thousand people to one destination doesn’t come with a low carbon footprint. Add to that the waste and energy use associated with casinos. But change is brewing.

Switching to Online

Playing online poker instead of flying to far-off destinations certainly comes with a lower footprint, but because of the ongoing issue of legalization – online gambling was banned by Congress in 2006 – and taxation, playing online isn’t simple. Lifting that ban could encourage more players to stay home instead of travel to poker games away from home, cutting carbon costs associated with travel.

Unfortunately, it’s unknown what kind of environmental impact lifting the ban would actually have. In fact, lifting the ban could lead to an increase in online gaming, and with it, energy use. Considering most household computers emit 40-80 grams of greenhouse gas emissions per hour, the impact of millions of computers being turned on to play in online poker games could in fact become an eco-unfriendly disaster.

For the time being, some members of the poker community are advocating carbon offsets, at least ensuring that jet-set poker players consider their carbon footprint.

A Greener Sin City

Although it’s easy to assume the city known for gaudy lights, imported oysters and endless Ferraris doesn’t care much about its environmental impact, Las Vegas is actually making strides. One of professional poker’s epicenters, Las Vegas is an energy intensive city, but according to the Brookings Institute the Las Vegas metro area ranks 18th in per capita carbon emissions from transportation and residential energy use among the nation’s 100 largest metro areas. It’s even the least toxic city in the U.S.

Las Vegas has put many initiatives in place to reduce its carbon footprint, including running its vehicle fleet with alternative fuels and implementing a progressive water policy. Even the most expensive, privately funded construction project in U.S. history, the building of the MGM Mirage’s City Center, was done with L.E.E.D. in mind, and recently scored a Gold certification.

The Green Poker Niche

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EGM Green makes eco-friendly casino gaming products, meaning you can play a hand of cards on a table made from FSC-certified wood and recycled synthetic materials. And you thought the fashion world was the only luxury industry to start going green.

These changes don’t herald immediate green status for the gambling industry, but they are indicators of progress.

Photo Credits: http2007, EGM Green

Anna Brones

Anna Brones is a food + travel writer with a love for coffee and bikes. She is the author of The Culinary Cyclist and Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break. Catch her weekly column, Foodie Underground.