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News Summary

Despite Threats, Casino Smoking Ban Advances

Publication Date: 4/21/2009
  • Author:CHRISTOPHER KEATING
  • Publication:The Hartford Courant

Despite threats of legal action and a potential battle over nearly $400 million a year in slot-machine revenue currently added to state coffers, a key legislative committee voted Monday to ban smoking at the state's two Indian casinos.

The Democratic members on the legislature's government administration and elections committee said they have the right to ban smoking to protect the health of casino workers--including those who have complained about the health effects of second-hand smoke.

But Republican lawmakers said the bill is clearly unconstitutional and would violate the compacts between the state and the Indian tribes that operate the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods casinos. They said the bill specifically targets casinos while allowing private clubs to continue permitting smoking.

"This, indeed, does buy us a substantial fight in the courts," said Rep. John W. Hetherington, a New Canaan Republican who serves as the ranking House Republican on the committee. "This is going to be a very long and costly fight for Connecticut."...

Blumenthal said Monday that a ban would be legally enforceable because "both tribes have already agreed--as a condition in their state gaming compacts--to adopt Connecticut's public health standards."