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Gamblers evenly split on allowing smoking in casinos

| Sunday, May 10, 2015, 9:00 p.m.

Leni Landsky and Jackie Minkel both enjoy video poker and frequent casino trips. Their common interests end with the question of whether smoking should be allowed in casinos.

Landsky, 69, of suburban Cleveland, a smoker for more than 50 years, avoids casinos that prohibit smoking, including the Horseshoe Cleveland. She'll add Mountaineer in Chester, W.Va., to that list July 1, when the casino bans smoking because of a tougher Hancock County smoking law.

Minkel, 72, of East Lansing, Mich., is so put off by smoke that she dons a surgical mask when a nearby player prepares to light up. Many times, the smoker decides to skip the cigarette, she says.

They are among dozens of gamblers who responded to a Player's Advantage request for comments on this question: Should casinos be exempted from smoking bans that apply to other workplaces and sites open to the public?

In Ohio, where casinos are included in the statewide smoking ban, “you have to leave your machine and have a friend watch it while you go outside to smoke,” Landsky says. “It's a pain in the neck.” She suggests establishing smoking and nonsmoking areas.

Minkel favors an outright ban: “What do I think about being poisoned? By a well-known carcinogen? In a business well aware of this? Wake up, casinos, just like restaurants and other public places have. No smoking!”

I posted the question on WizardOfVegas.com , an offshoot of the encyclopedic WizardOfOdds.com. It attracted more than 150 comments in a few days. Between that, emails and comments on the Trib website, 62 people voiced an opinion about exempting casinos from smoking bans. The tally was 31-31, including some who say government should not set such rules for private businesses.

“All public places should be smoke-free,” wrote Michael Shackleford, the Wizard of Odds. “However, I'm a realist and would happily settle for compromise, as my side is losing this fight, for now. For example, making nonsmoking areas at least 50 percent of any given casino seems a reasonable compromise.” After that's in place, he says, “I'll press for a full-on ban!”

Other comments from postings and emails:

AZDuffman: “I am a rare breed. I really hate smoking completely. That being said, I support the right of the casino to allow smoking areas, as it is a big market for them. They should be allowed to have smoking as the places are huge with room for both, but they could do a better job of segregating and labeling where and where not allowed.”

GWAE: “As a nonsmoker, I cannot stand being near smokers in a casino. … but I am against the state making the decision. If a business wants to limit what is OK in their venue, then so be it.”

TriathlonTodd: “In Iowa, the only place where smoking is allowed indoors in a public setting is at a casino. … I would personally appreciate it if casinos were not exempted, but it would hurt business.”

Gandler: “Making smoking sections and nonsmoking areas is a fair compromise. … Having separate floors as smoking and nonsmoking is even better as it is easier to enforce. I think banning smoking totally will devastate the industry. I am not a smoker generally, but when I go to the casinos I will occasionally pick up a pack or two because it is relaxing and feels natural.”

Hwccdealer: “I work in a smoke-free casino. It's filthy enough without having to breathe smoke.”

Mickey Crimm of Great Falls, Mont.: “As a smoker and a casino frequenter in Montana, I can tell you that the (state's) smoking ban doesn't keep us away. But whatever time we have to spend at the casino, we spend a good bit of it outside smoking instead of hitting the buttons on the machines. This is what the owners don't like.”

Sue Jungck: (The percentage of adults who smoke) is well below the majority, yet these smokers are the ones being catered to in the casinos. I am beyond sick of this and strongly feel it is way past time to make a change. … It's time to stop this nonsense in public places!”

ACmama: “Let the casino make the call about smoking. It's their business and their gamble. Let them decide which group is more costly to alienate. After all, it's all about the money.”

Hunterhill: “Gambling and drinking might be bad habits, but they don't invade the space of people around them.”

JohnnyQ: “I would trade the nonsmoking (law) in Ohio for the good blackjack rules in PA. Deal?”

Mark Gruetze is administrative editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7838 or players@tribweb.com.

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