Are smoking bans a trend or foe?

Jun 11, 2007 4:03 AM

Smokey’s not just a girl eliminated from the premier season of Flavor Flav’s Flavor or Love show. Smokey is also the way casinos in Colorado might be remembered after January 1, 2008 when the loophole is closed on Colorado casinos being allowed to be the last bastion of the nasty weed.

According to news accounts, Gov. Bill Ritter signed several major pieces of legislation, including a ban on smoking in casinos that takes effect Jan. 1.

Democrats had lobbied for the casino smoking ban, after the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act passed last year with an exemption for gambling halls, as well as cigar bars and smoking lounges at the Denver airport.

Bar owners said it put them on the downside of an uneven playing field, and casino employees complained that they felt their health was not considered as important as that of other workers.

This move to enforce the spirit of the smoking ban is not without expectation. Now the only public indoor facilities where smoking would be allowed will be tobacco stores, the Denver International Airport smoking lounge and designated areas of nursing homes.

ursing homes? Not to be cynical, but one has to wonder if the continued allowance of smoking at these facilities has something to do with the government wanting to prune the social security and Medicaid tree.

Within both established and emerging gaming jurisdictions, the role of smoking in casinos is actively being debated. As reported in the mainstream press, even the established land of libertarianism, Nevada, has been affected:

"November 7, 2006, was a sign of changing times. This was the day Nevadans voted to enact the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act, a measure designed to protect themselves and others from the hazards of secondhand smoke. Known as Question 5 on the ballot, it received around 54 percent of the vote and became law the following month. The act states that smoking tobacco in any form is prohibited in indoor places of employment."

The list includes places such as public and private school buildings, grocery stores, convenience stores, and shopping malls but offers exemptions for full scale casinos and legal brothels (this is after all almost ”˜anything goes’ Nevada).

The second oldest domestic gaming market, Atlantic City, is taking the ban concept even further with only a limited variance for the Jersey shore casinos. Atlantic City’s casinos are being subjected to a compromise of 75% being smoke free while 25% of floor space will, with improved ventilation and physical barriers, be allowed to remain "smoker friendly."

With increased competition in nearby (smoke free) Delaware, (smoking allowed) Pennsylvania, and from the two largest casinos in the world, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, the decision to go partially smoke free may have some serious economic ramifications for America’s Playground.

In one of the newer markets, Pennsylvania, according to an article in the Patriot-News of Harrisburg, there is "a bill pending before the state Senate would ban smoking in public places such as bars, restaurants, sports arenas and casinos. It’s the first such legislation to make it out of a committee in the last 10 years."

The main sponsor of the bill, state Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R- Montgomery, said, "lobbyists already are seeking an exemption for casinos in the state."

The nearby racino-dominated state of Delaware fully banned smoking in 2002. Initially Delaware’s gross gaming revenue did drop after the smoking ban was put into place.

This downturn follows the trend observed in other (international) markets such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada, where as much as a 20 percent decline in revenues occurred after smoking bans were implemented.

In the immortal words of the Breakfast Club, "Smoke’up Johnny!" in Colorado casinos, at least until the New Year.

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