Monday, April 20, 2009

Second Legislative Committee Approves Bill To Ban Smoking At Casinos

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The state of Connecticut's Government Administration & Elections Committee voted 8-3 today to approve a bill that would ban smoking at the two Indian casinos in Connecticut.

This is the second time a bill has been approved by a committee of Connecticut lawmakers. Two months ago, the legislature's Public Health Committee voted 28-2 for a bill that would require both the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods casinos to be smoke-free by October 2011.

In today's action, the eight legislators voting to approve the bill were all Democrats and the three legislators who voted against the bill were Republicans. The bill that came out of today's committee also seeks to ban smoking by 2011. The bill also mandates that casino liquor licenses not be renewed if the tribes do not enter into negotiations with the governor.

Both tribes said that a state law that would ban smoking is a violation of their sovereignty and have threatened lawsuits and possibly withholding the state's 25 percent take on the two tribes' slot machine revenues. The state receives about $400 million combined from both Indian casinos based on that slot revenue formula.

Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal said that agreements between the state and the tribes established "firm conditions on the operation of the casinos to which the Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegans agreed." The state banned smoking in restaurants an workplaces with more than five people in October 2003 and expanded the ban to bars in April 2004.

The bill approved today will be forwarded to Connecticut's House of Representatives for consideration.