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Nelson won't bring smoking legislation

Publication Date: 2012-01-11
  • Author:Mark Watson
  • Publication:Black Hills Pioneer

It looks as if Deadwood casinos will remain smoke-free this year.

Sen. Tom Nelson, R-Lead, said Tuesday afternoon, the start of the 2012 Legislative session, he likely will not file legislation to exempt Deadwood casinos and certain fraternal, service and veteran's organizations from the 2010 smoking ban.

“Although there is definitely support for such a measure, I think that battle will take away from some of the issues we'll face to make positive changes that would grow our industry,” Nelson wrote in an e-mail to the Black Hills Pioneer.

Nelson told the Black Hills Pioneer of his initial plan in mid-December, and a story published Dec. 21, 2011, quickly accumulated reader comments opposing the idea.

The Legislature passed a statewide smoking ban in 2009 snuffing out all forms of smoking in businesses. That move, however, was referred to a vote. In 2010 the voters in the state's general election upheld the smoking ban 65 percent to 35 percent. Lawrence County voters followed suit with two-thirds of majority in favor of banning smoking.

“That would have been a fight,” Nelson said. “It would have consumed the entire session.”

Nelson said rather than fight this battle, he would focus on other aspects of gaming such as raising the bet limits, likely from $100 to $1,000.

Although he said he was unsure of the revenue the move could create, it would likely open up the door for more table tournaments.

“We had the same conversation 12 years ago when we raised the bet limit from $5 to $100,” he said.

He added that he still needs to discuss the move with the executive director of the gaming commission and the commissioners.

“I want to aggressively pursue higher bet limits to bring the Deadwood gaming industry to the next level,” he said.

“Deadwood has already raised the bar for the industry in terms of conventions and meetings, as well as entertainment,” he wrote.

The Deadwood Mountain Grand opened in July 2011 and has brought in world-class entertainment. The Lodge at Deadwood opened 2009 and is home to a large convention center.

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