A house committee in Indiana was slammed by the state’s gambling industry yesterday over a proposed statewide ban that would restrict smoking in casino facilities except on gaming floors.
In the past, similar statewide smoking bans have passed out of the house five times but on each occasion they have died at the Senate. This year’s version of the bill, however, limits exemptions to: casino gaming floors, cigar and hookah bars and fraternal, social and veterans organisations.
In a report by the Post-Tribune, State representative, Eric Turner, said the bill’s authors have “hit a sweet spot in terms of balancing exemptions with the bill’s ability to pass”.
As he held a chart of states with similar, stronger bans, he added that Indiana isn’t proposing anything unusual with the smoking ban, while urging the House Public Health Committee to be careful when considering exemptions as it was the snowballing effect of these in the bill last year which led to its eventual demise.
However, casino representatives disputed Turner’s views, arguing that while smoking on the gaming floor was economically advantageous – the bill should allow smoking anywhere on site. Why? Because players may drive pass the Blue Chip Casino Hotel Spa in Michigan City, for instance, and travel out of state to gamble at Native American facilities in southwestern Michigan instead if Indiana was to pass the bill. It is a mere 10 minute drive away after all.
Director of Governmental Affairs at Boyd Gaming, Ryan Soultz, also had something to say about the proposed bill. “The competitor we face in southern Michigan are not subject to state or local law,” he said – agreeing that casinos would face issues if the bill was enforced. Arguing his case, he added that patrons being issued tickets for smoking anywhere but the gaming floor would have “ a chilling effect on business”.
“There is some impact from our patrons not being able to smoke throughout the facility even if they can on the casino floor,” Soultz added.
State Rep. Charlie Brown, who is the author of the bill, argued against Soultz that bar owners who neighbour casinos in Indiana feel this wouldn’t be fair. “That’s why I support Turner’s efforts to say only the floor,” he said.
Turner’s goal to pass the bill is by the end of the session, not before the Super Bowl on 5 Feb in Indianapolis. The debate continues.