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News Summary

Bill to ban smoking in casinos advances in Kansas House

Publication Date: 2011-03-17
  • Publication:Wichita Eagle

In a hastily called meeting in a Capitol hallway, the Kansas House Health and Human Services Committee on Thursday advanced a bill to ban smoking in casinos.

The vote came a day after the panel held hearings on that and a competing bill that would have exempted bars that sell lottery tickets from the statewide smoking ban passed last year.

But the House panel stripped the bar bill and replaced it with the casino smoking ban.

Casinos that will be operated by private companies under the auspices of the state lottery are under development at several sites around the state. Technically, the casinos will be "Expanded Lottery Facilities" owned by the state, which will get a portion of the profits.

Casino operators testified that a smoking ban would cost them--and the state--about 20 to 25 percent of the revenue they had expected.

Rep. Brenda Landwehr, a Wichita Republican, said she didn’t have the votes on the committee to move the bill, which would have allowed smoking in bars that sell lottery tickets and operate the lottery's Keno games.

Owners of neighborhood bars and taverns across the state have complained that the smoking ban has hurt their business, in some cases reducing revenue by 30 to 50 percent.

They said they expect it to get worse when the casinos come online because smokers will be able to puff and drink on the gaming floors.

"Apparently, people (lawmakers) didn't care about the small businesses," Landwehr said. "Let's see if they can stand up to the casinos' money."

Landwehr was a strong opponent of both the original smoking ban and the bill that allows casino gambling.