Smoking fines dont deter casinos - Monday 30th of June 2008

Two casinos in Cripple Creek continue to allow smoking indoors despite receiving citations last week for violating the statewide ban.

Despite receiving $200 fines June 18, Bronco Billys and Midnight Rose are allowing smokers to light up because they consider themselves cigar bars, which are exempt from the ban.

Police said they will not continue to ticket the casinos until a decision on whether they are exempt is made at a July 17 court hearing.

Cripple Creek Police Chief Gary Hamilton said it is unnecessary to continue fining the casinos until the judge makes a decision.

"To write them citation after citation after citation I feel clogs our system up," Hamilton said.

The departments actions have angered anti-smoking groups.

Stephanie Steinberg, chairwoman of Smoke Free Gaming of Colorado, said the Police Department is caving in to city politics.

"Whats alarming is here you have a casino industry out there that is, in a sense, dictating to the Police Department how laws should apply to them," she said.

Managers at the Midnight Rose declined to comment. Managers at Bronco Billys did not return calls.

The city told casinos June 16 that it would no longer enforce the smoking ban because it lacked the manpower. After lawmakers and anti-smoking groups chastised that decision, the city cracked down on the casinos.

The Double Eagle was also fined but stopped allowing smoking.

The two casinos say theyre"cigar bars," establishments that receive 5 percent or $50,000 of their gross revenue from tobacco sales.

Casinos have been bitter about the smoking ban, which went into effect in January, because they said it has caused business to decline. Colorado casinos saw a 10.7 percent revenue drop in the first four months of 2008.

Eric Rose, general manager of Colorado Grande Casino in Cripple Creek, said although he is not happy about the ban, casinos should follow the law.

"Its like if you stole 20 bucks from me today, police came, got my 20 bucks back, wrote you a ticket for a petty-misdemeanor offense," he said, "and then you come back and steal my 20 bucks, and the cops wont ticket you and say, Well, you got a ticket yesterday. "

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