Smoke And Maybe Fire Over Casino Ban
I have a friend who suggests, in response to the growing state-tribal standoff over a casino smoking ban, that the state relax.
If the casinos want to keep their smoking environments intact for all their smoking customers, let them. Smoking may kill you but apparently it's good for the gambling business. The nonsmokers can choose to stay home.
”I'd pump smoke into the places,” he said.
Connecticut lawmakers, on the other hand, watching out for the interests of employees, who have no choice in the matter, and also bowing to their new union muscle, this week continued to press the issue.
In fact, members of the Government Administration & Elections Committee, voting boldly 8-3 in favor of legislation eliminating the casinos' exemption from the bar and restaurant smoking ban, seemed to be calling the bluff of Mohegan Chief Bruce “Two Dogs” Bozsum, who is threatening to withhold the state's share of the slot machine revenues if the state persists in snuffing out casino smoking.
Attorney General Blumenthal showed no sign, either, of backing down this week from a confrontation, saying “I will fight to adopt and enforce this law.”
Indeed, Blumenthal appears to have a legal slam dunk on his hands if the law passes and the Mohegans make good on their threat to shut off the slot machine money or at least put it in escrow.
The court-imposed compact that allows the tribes to operate their casinos is quite specific about the resolution of disputes in federal courts. It plainly says a tribe's sovereign immunity is no defense for not abiding by the terms of the compact.
”(The tribe) consents to the exercise of jurisdiction over such action and over the tribe by the United States District Courts . . . to enforce the provisions of this compact,” it says.
As for the state insisting on a smoking ban, the compact is quite clear that health and safety standards at the casino be “no less rigorous” than those imposed by the state and that the state may “require the tribe to cooperate with any state agency generally responsible for enforcement of such health and safety standards in order to assure compliance.”
Furthermore, the compact is also quite clear the tribe must abide by all laws of the state of Connecticut regarding the service of liquor. That could soon include one insisting the liquor be served in a smoke-free environment, as it must now be everywhere else in Connecticut.
The Mohegan chairman has offered no credible legal argument in making his reckless threats to Connecticut lawmakers
He could even be putting the tribe's business at risk. It's not inconceivable that a federal judge could even shut the whole thing down if it's found that the tribe is willfully violating the terms of the compact and withholding payments it has agreed to make to the state.
I don't think they ought to pump smoke into the casinos, although I'm not so worried either about customers who choose to hang out in a smoky gambling hall.
But I think Connecticut legislators are right to try to protect the health of state workers, in the same way lawmakers in other gambling jurisdictions around the country are working to improve casino air quality. All of them are looking at ways to phase in these bans to minimize the impact on business.
But even in a recession, the notion that people's health should be sacrificed in the name of making more money seems hopelessly greedy.
This Is The Opinion Of David Collins.
EDITORIAL FOOTNOTE; David Collins is correct about most of his view on the smoking ban legislation and the casinos' response. The only thing that I disagree with him, is that Bruce "Two Dogs" Bozsum, is not the Chief of the Mohegan Tribe. Bozsum is the Chairman of the Tribal Council. From all the tribal members, I have talked to, the vast majority don't want him to ever be the chief. Most members said they don't have any respect for him.. Bozsum is up for re-election. Do you think he will get back in? What do you think?