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News Summary

Court snuffs out ruling for smoke shacks

Publication Date: 2015-02-25
  • Author:Andrea Fisher-Nitschke
  • Publication:Great Falls Tribune

The Montana Supreme Court issued an opinion Tuesday reversing the Cascade County District Court's decisions that two casino smoking structures were in compliance with the Montana Clean Indoor Air Act and to award attorney fees to casino owners, Douglas and K.C. Palagi.

The Cascade City-County Board of Health appealed the decisions after District Judge Greg Pinski ruled that the wording of the law coupled with factual admissions made by the Board of Health made the shelters legal.

The opinion states "the specific issue here is whether the structures constitute 'an enclosed room' for purposes of the definition of 'place of work.'" The opinion states the casino owners arguments that the structures do not constitute an enclosed, place of work are invalid, calling the 4-inch-tall slits venting to the outside the same as "cracking a window."

The opinion further states that because the structures are a place of work, the court "need not consider whether the structures are open to the 'general public.'" After the Montana Clean Indoor Air Act banned smoking in enclosed public places in 2009, a number of casino owners sought to circumnavigate the restriction by renovating their establishments to create designated smoking shelters. Prohibiting smoking on their premises, owners say, had a significant impact on their revenue.

The shelters, generally built as add-ons to existing casino buildings, were designed with open-air vents that the owners argued made them exterior spaces for the purposes of the Clean Indoor Air Act but interior spaces for the purposes of gambling regulation...

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