Casino Smoking Ban Could Be Challenged

Published on: March 14, 2008 

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and the Mohegan Tribe are getting set to fight a law that would prohibit smoking at the two tribal casinos, Foxwoods Resort Casino, and the Mohegan Sun.  The state’s Attorney General believes the process would be long and extremely costly, but the two tribes believe they have a chance.  The Attorney General also feels that the best course of action would be speak with representatives of the two tribes on how to implement the ban instead of fighting it.

Tribe’s representatives are open to talks and they believe that smoking is a public health concern.  The issue, however, is that they do not feel that the state-wide ban applies to the two casinos because they are considered to be sovereign tribal land.  Connecticut legislators are pushing for talks to help save the tribes considerable financial loss by taking it to court.  Both tribes agree that it would be better to avoid a lengthy court battle and they are very open to continuing their talks with the state government.

The Attorney General was called in to evaluate the proposed bill to advise all the parties involved.  Casinos were exempted from the ban in 2003 but the United Auto Workers union called for the smoking ban over the winter in order to protect the many employees at the two casinos.  The 2,600 employees between the two establishments are now being represented in the matter by the Union, but management at Foxwoods Resort is not happy with the results and are contesting it.

The employees – especially the table game dealers – agree that the smoking of the gamblers is a hazard to their health, but their bosses also maintain that the air quality in the casino and the ventilation system is very good.  They feel the ban would hurt the business if the gamblers weren’t allowed to smoke as they played.  The Attorney General pointed out in his investigation of the proposal that the casinos are required to adopt certain health standards since they do operate in conjunction with the state itself.
Right now both tribes are holding out on any talks until Connecticut’s General Assembly backs off the casino smoking ban bill.  They are willing to the come to the table to discuss this, but they want to be able to do it on their own terms and after they have determined what the financial implications will be if they put the ban into effect.  A public health committee involved in the case has until this Monday to decide whether or not the bill should be sent to the state legislature for consideration.

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