Substance Abuse Testing for Casino Employees

The Casino industry is thriving in the United States. The somewhat lowered revenues brought about by the 2007 recession is in the past as the gambling industry’s 2015 annual organic growth revenue returns surpassed $70 billion.  Though the growth was based on revenues brought by commercial casinos, tribal casinos, limited stakes gaming offered in restaurants and travel plazas, and iGaming, another study indicated that the industry’s total annual contribution to the US economy is over 135 billion USD.

Deemed as part of the general amusement, gambling and recreation industries, casinos are facilities that accommodate and house different types of gambling, entertainment and hospitality activities. The gambling and casino industry is comprised of companies and establishments that engage in gambling and standard casino operations. Included are establishments such as casino hotels, stand-alone casinos, and riverboat casinos. Some casinos are known for hosting sporting events, concerts and live entertainment.

The multi-billion casino industry has created jobs for over 730,000 people of which 362,000 are employed in casino hotels and other private casinos. The positive economic impact to the U.S. is welcomed; but the 24/7 working hours of industry employees could have a distressing effect on their physical, mental and social health.

Studies indicate the possibility of casino workers developing social problems that could trigger depression, eating disorders, marital problems, and alcohol and drug abuse. Casino employees are exposed to the glitz, flash and opulence of the world of casinos. Because of their above median pay grade, tips and freebies, most casino employees have lavish lifestyle. Due to the working hours, work exposure and work demands, very few casino employees have a normal lifestyle. Raising a family may be difficult for some.

The general effects of casino lifestyle may be summed up as drugs and alcohol abuse as well as divorce for employees.

Effects of Drug and Alcohol Abuse in the Casino Industry

Illicit substance use and abuse negatively impacts the casino industry through diminished productivity, rise in workplace accidents, injuries, and sickness linked to low employee morale and absenteeism. Other effects of excessive alcohol drinking and illicit drug use of casino employees may lead to:

  • Sleeping and/or tardiness on the job
  • Poor work performance due to hangover or withdrawal
  • Loss of efficacy and diminished decision-making ability
  • Theft
  • Preoccupation with the use and/or procurement of illicit substances which may lead to poor concentration of attention
  • Trade of illegal substances in the workplace
  • Increased probability of trouble among employees
  • Increased implementation of disciplinary actions
  • Quick employee turnover leading to frequency of training new employees

How Casino Employees Source Illicit Drugs and Alcohol

Among the most abused illicit substances in a casino setup are prescription drugs, methamphetamine and alcohol. “Casino workers” includes all types and classifications of jobs as a fully functioning casino hotel needs various professionals, and skilled workers to operate.

It is easy enough to access alcohol in a casino setup as alcoholic beverages of all types and potency are sold in and out of the premises. Drinking at work is not a problem as it is simple enough to take a quick sip of alcohol in plain sight. In case secrecy is needed, there are plenty of secluded and private areas within the casino to lug a jigger or two.

Nevada is location to over 230 casinos. Based on the most recent data, Nevada is in the top ten states for illicit drug and alcohol abuse. The state also ranks second among all U.S. states for the non-medical use of the prescription drugs oxycodone and hydrocodone. Addictions to painkillers such as Ambien and Oxycontin are also significant. With the fast and high lifestyle, and connection of casino workers, getting prescription drugs whether legally or illegally is not very difficult. Whether from hand-to-hand sales or trade between locals and out-of-town distributors, club drugs such as LSD, GHB and MDMA changed hands and are abused in entertainment clubs.

A large percentage of methamphetamine is smuggled from Mexico to the United States. Imported meth are produced in super laboratories that produce at least 10 kilos of this illicit drug in 24 hours. There are also pockets of methamphetamine labs across the country that produce various grades of meth. Las Vegas, Nevada is the stop off point of drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine and heroin, before significant quantities of these drugs are moved across the United States.

The quest to bust drug trafficking is a problem that is as old as time. The reality is drug trade is an ongoing social menace, and with it, so are drug use and abuse in casinos.

Importance of Testing Casino Employees for Drug Use

The mantra of every casino big bosses may well be “A Drug Free Workplace”. The reality is that there is not one casino that is truly free of illicit substances that could endanger the property, its staff and clients, in danger. Two questions come to mind. First, does the casino conduct an efficient pre-employment drug screening? Second, does the casino have an effective drug testing program for its employees?

Alcohol and drug use and abuse of employees does not only endanger lives and property but also affect employees’ morale and productivity and short-term disability relating to healthcare costs increases. True, many casinos claim that they are drug free, but without implementing certain drug testing protocols, the claim may well be mere boasting.

Drug and alcohol testing of casino employees is very important for the following reasons.

  • Stop hiring people who use illicit drugs
  • Discourage employees from using and abusing drugs and alcohol
  • Determine, and refer for treatment and rehabilitation employees who have alcohol and drug problems
  • Provide and maintain a safe and drug free working environment
  • Provide a safe and secure environment to guests
  • Comply with local, state and federal regulations regarding drugs and alcohol use
  • Avail of benefits from workers’ compensation premium discount programs

If all casinos will establish an efficient drug testing program, they will most likely raise their profitability by increasing guest satisfaction, reducing liability, and safe handling of cash flow.

Drug Abuse Statistics for Casino Workers

As of 2014, there are 362,000 casino employees across the United States. Of this number 192,000 are employed in casino hotels in Nevada.

  • From 2008-2012, 11.5% of fully employed, 18-64 year old employees of the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry reported heavy use of alcohol in the past month.
  • From the same group, 13.7% used illicit drugs in the past month.
  • From 2008-2012, 12.9% of fully employed, 18-64 year old employees of the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry were diagnosed with substance use disorder.
  • According to a 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), about 86.4% of people aged 18 years old and above drank alcohol at least once in their lifetime; 1% claimed to have drank in the past year; and 56% claimed to have drank in the past month.
  • In Las Vegas, the per capita sales of Hydrocodone rose by 233%; Oxycodone rose by 366% during the last 10 years.
  • Methamphetamine abuse and trafficking are the number one contributors to violent and property crimes in Las Vegas.

Types of Drug Tests Used for Casino Employees

Casinos require pre-employment drug testing for job applicants and random drug testing for employees. Drug testing applicants will prevent the hiring of employees who are into illicit substances whereas random drug testing will deter employees from using drugs. In the event that an employee tests positive, he can always be referred for treatment and rehabilitation, with the greater possibility of returning to work after treatment and passing post treatment drug tests.

  • Urine Drug Test – A urine drug screen is accurate, affordable, quick and painless. It is a less invasive test that needs no special training for an office nurse or casino clinic staff to collect specimen. Urine drug test screens for amphetamines, marijuana, benzodiazepines, PCP, opioids and alcohol. Urine drug test can accurately detect potential substance abuse problems among employees. This test is best done for random drug testing as drug metabolites in urine are eliminated after 48 to 72 hours.
  • Hair Drug Test – With a specified quantity of hair strands, ingested illegal drugs and prescription drugs in the last 90 days is detectable. Drug metabolites in the hair cannot be washed away as trace amount of the processed metabolites are carried to the hair follicle by the bloodstream. Hair follicle testing is best for pre-employment drug testing as it is possible to identify drugs used by a person even if he has stopped taking them for a month or so.
  • Saliva Drug Test – Most commonly abused drugs are detectable through saliva test. There are instant saliva test kits available for a non-invasive, quick, yet accurate detection of illegal substances. It has a short drug detection time and therefore cannot be used to determine historical drug use. This is best for random drug testing.

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