Casinos Up In Smoke

Las Vegas, Nevada (PressExposure) March 04, 2009 -- The smoking ban will probably take years to pass with the Indian tribes in Connecticut who own Foxwoods Casino and Mohegan Sun as they see the ban as a threat to their sovereignty.

Though, some say that playing the sovereignty card is a smoke screen in itself. Stephanie Steinberg, chairwoman of Smoke-Free Gaming, an advocacy organization for gaming employees and patrons in support of smoke-free casino environments, says “”We call it the 'shield of sovereignty.' It's really about the money. It's always about the money,” The organization pushed for smoke-free casinos in Colorado and succeeded to ban smoking in more than 40 commercial casinos in the state. The ban came into effect Jan 1st 2008.

Gaming revenues are immediately affected by smoking restrictions and prohibitions on casinos. Bill Eadington, professor of economics and director of the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming at the University of Nevada-Reno, said” they’ve had a pretty dramatic effect on revenues wherever they've been imposed,” “It's about a 15 percent decline (in revenues) the first year and an additional 5 percent the second year. It's all fairly new data, but it's been consistent, globally.” A decline in casino revenues of these dimensions would result in loss of tens of millions of dollars annually to the state of Connecticut.

Foxwoods and Mohegan Suns’ competition, Atlantic City’s 11 casinos, have been dealing with a partial ban since 2006 which limits smoking to a mere 25% of gaming areas. On October 15th 2008, the city council banned smoking totally and demanded the casinos to provide enclosed smoking lounges for gamblers. The total ban lasted just over a month and was lifted, returning to the previous partial ban due to sharp revenue loss in the gaming business.

Talks began between government and Connecticut tribes in order to find a way to bypass the sovereignty issue. An unofficial agreement was reached with the Mohegan Tribe and with Gov. M. Jodi Rell which includes a smoking prohibition on 20% of the tribes gaming area, upgraded ventilation systems to tackle second hand smoke and to assign employees with respiratory problems or any other health deficits to nonsmoking areas to avoid second hand smoke. Smoking has already been prohibited in the Mohegan Suns’ bars and dining areas.

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe has also been talking to the governor's office about the issue, Southeastern Connecticut legislators are backing a bill which largely embodies the agreement the Mohegan Tribe had worked out with the governor’s office.

One of the conditions to renewing a liquor permit is that tribal owned casinos “enter into an agreement with the state governing the reduction, removal and monitoring of secondhand smoke in the casino.”

A hearing by the legislatures Public Health Committee will be held at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

Dave Barry, a union member who has worked at Foxwoods for 17 years said “Smoke gets blown in our faces 24/7, 365 days a year,” “We get sicker and sicker with every day of inaction. The Senate acted last year, and now we need the House and the governor to support 100 percent smoke-free casinos.” Steinberg said that the only people who could really make a change are the gamblers themselves. In the past it was thought that 75% of gamblers were smokers, today numbers lean more towards the 20%. “When gamblers complain, casinos listen,” she said. “And the majority of gamblers don't smoke.”

Nowadays, smoking and non-smoking gamblers turn to online gambling as a way to avoid limited smoking prohibitions as the non smoker doesn’t benefit from a smoke-free casino and the gambler who smokes can do so only in designated areas. Online gambling is gaining more and more appeal due to the fact that there is no travelling involved and the freedom to control surroundings which the gambler provides for himself from the comfort of his own home. John Stanmore, a gambling aficionado, said “I used to enjoy gambling at casinos, it was an event. But since I have been playing online I can enjoy playing from home, no fancy dress, all you can eat fridge and attractive casino bonuses land base casinos just don’t have”

Caroline Jenkins

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Press Release Submitted On: March 04, 2009 at 2:51 am
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