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Kansas Casino Bill Filed to Extinguish Indoor Tobacco Smoking

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Posted on: February 2, 2024, 03:15h. 

Last updated on: February 1, 2024, 03:47h.

Kansas casino smoking could soon be extinguished if a bipartisan group of state lawmakers get their way.

Kansas casino smoking
A gambler playing a slot machine at Harrah’s Atlantic City lights a cigarette on Sept. 29, 2023. Kansas casinos allow smoking, but legislation seeking to repeal the exemption has been introduced in the Topeka capital. (Image: AP)

House Bill 2622 was introduced this week by Reps. Owen Donohoe (R-Shawnee), David Buehler (R-Lansing), Sydney Carlin (D-Manhattan), Ford Carr (D-Wichita), and Dennis Highberger (D-Lawrence). The legislation seeks to amend the Kansas Indoor Clean Air Act passed in 2010.

The state tobacco statute prohibits indoor smoking in most workplaces, including offices, restaurants and bars, and common areas of apartment buildings. The law, however, provided an exemption for the state’s four commercial casinos.

Boot Hill, Kansas Star, Hollywood, and Kansas Crossing casinos can allow indoor cigarette and cigar smoking anywhere on their gaming floors, though each casino has designated areas that are supposedly smoke-free. Smoking opponents say casino ventilation systems don’t protect people and workers from dangerous secondhand smoke.

HB 2622 would force the four casinos to eradicate indoor smoking from their gaming spaces.

Casino Workers Delight

CEASE, Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects, is a grassroots coalition of casino workers that originated in Atlantic City. The organization was formed after New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) allowed indoor casino smoking to return to the nine casinos in Atlantic City in July 2021 after ordering them to go smoke-free amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

CEASE has since expanded to other states where casino smoking remains. CEASE has chapters in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Kansas. The CEASE chapter in Kansas celebrated the introduction of HB 2622.

For too long, casino workers like myself have had to endure the hazardous conditions of secondhand smoke all in the name of a paycheck,” said Joe Hafley, the Kansas CEASE Kansas leader who works as a security officer at Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway. “It’s not just about the cards, slots, and profits — this bill is a beacon of hope for the hardworking people in our industry, signaling that our health and well-being matter.”

Hafley added that casino workers shouldn’t “have to choose between our health and a paycheck,” a slogan that’s been frequently used by CEASE members.

Legislation Pushback

HB 2622 has been referred to the House Committee on Health and Human Services for initial review. The legislation proposes striking language from the Indoor Clean Act. The bill would erase the exemption for a “gaming floor of a lottery gaming facility or racetrack gaming facility.”

The casinos will presumably fight against the bill. Gaming interests continue to argue that indoor smoking is critical to the health of their slot and table game operations. Requiring a smoker to go outside interrupts their play and is believed to cause some smokers to end their casino visits when the urge to light up comes.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 11.5% of the adult population currently smokes. A smoker is defined as someone who smokes a cigarette or cigar at least several times a week. Kansas’ smoking rate is considerably higher than the national average at an estimated 16%.

Kansas’ Department of Health and Environment says smoking rates are higher among poor and low-income households. Nearly 31% of adults earning less than $25K per year smoke, and 20% of those making $25K to $50K smoke. Less than 13% of those earning more than $50K regularly light up.

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