Casinos balk at smoking ban - Saturday 12th of March 2005
But hotel, restaurant groups say uniform policy is preferable
Colorado's casinos aren't going along with businesses that are betting a proposed statewide ban on smoking would be a winner.
"Currently, casinos do not permit smoking in most restaurants and common areas, but I don't know that we would go as far as to support a total smoking ban in areas where gaming occurs," said Lois Rice, executive director of the Colorado Gaming Association. The group represents two-thirds of the state's 45 gambling halls.The Cripple Creek Casino Association already has lined up with the state organization to challenge a broad ban on smoking in bars, restaurants and other workplaces.
"We would support a ban on smoking in designated restaurant areas - and they would have to be very clearly designated - but not a ban that would apply to gaming areas," said Kyle Fenner, executive director of the group, which represents six of Cripple Creek's 19 casinos.
The proposal for a uniform statewide prohibition on smoking in workplaces and public spaces won the endorsement of a variety of health-care professionals and business leaders Wednesday. Smoking already is banned in workplaces, bars and restaurants by at least 13 local governments around Colorado.
Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, a restaurant owner and a lead advocate of the proposal, described the current hodgepodge of regulations a "Balkanization" that creates separate classes of people.
The 520-member Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association and the 4,500-member Colorado Restaurant Association both came out for the proposal on much the same rationale as the mayor's.
"We had hoped there would be a statewide ban rather than a city-by-city approach that the cities have been taking," said Ilene Kamsler, president of the hotel group.
Pete Meersman, president of the restaurant association, said restaurateurs "want a level playing field for all operators rather than a patchwork of local ordinances."
An October poll of restaurateurs found 56 percent in favor a uniform statewide ban, up from 39 percent in 2002 and 46 percent in 2003, Meersman said.
The trade association for Colorado casinos, which generate $100 million in tax revenue annually for state coffers, has not taken a formal position on the just-introduced proposal, Rice said.
"We've asked our lobbyist to convey the message that we are opposed back to the legislature," she said.
A handful of the state's 45 casinos already offer a nonsmoking section on the gambling floor, Rice said.
For one, the Fortune Valley Hotel and Casino in Central City offers about one-eighth of its gaming floor for nonsmokers, said Joe Behm, director of marketing and community affairs.
Smoking is not allowed in Fortune Valley's two newly remodeled restaurants, but smoking is permitted at a delicatessen counter, he said. Smoking is allowed in some hotel rooms, but not in others.
"Industrywide, we have spent a considerable amount of money on air-handling systems to try to accommodate smokers and nonsmokers," Behm said.
"We would like the individual businesses to make their own choices about smoking and not smoking," he said.
Three major groups that promote Colorado are evaluating the proposed ban but have not announced a position: the Denver Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and Colorado Ski Country USA.
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