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Casino smoking bill seen lacking

Publication Date: 2009-02-28
  • Author:Brian Hallenbeck
  • Publication:The Day (New London, CT)

Advocates of total ban tell lawmakers current proposal inadequate

Saying a bill to regulate smoking at the state's tribally owned casinos doesn't go far enough, unionized table-games dealers from Foxwoods Resort Casino and antismoking advocates voiced support Friday for Attorney General Richard Blumenthal's plan to phase in a complete ban on smoking at the casinos by October 2011.

In testimony before the General Assembly's Public Health Committee, members of UAW at Foxwoods, which is negotiating its first contract with the casino owned by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, said the bill offered by the legislature's southeastern delegation "falls woefully short," largely because it specifies no date for a total ban on smoking at the casinos, which many believe is inevitable. The bill, incorporating the terms of an unofficial deal the Mohegan Tribe, owners of Mohegan Sun, reached with Gov. M. Jodi Rell, calls for the tribes to enter into an agreement with the state "governing the reduction, removal and monitoring of secondhand smoke."

Blumenthal, who appeared before the committee early in the day, has proposed amending the bill to prohibit smoking in the casinos' nongaming areas and in no less than 20 percent of their gaming areas by October 2009, in no less than 50 percent of their gaming areas by October 2010 and in all areas by the following year.

"Very importantly," Blumenthal told the committee, "my proposal exempts federally recognized tribes that enact a similar law through their tribal statutes...My amendment achieves the goal of smoke-free casinos while respecting tribal sovereignty by exempting tribes that enact their own laws or enter into a compact with the state of Connecticut."

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