Friday, April 24, 2009

Nevada may ease smoking ban

"LAS VEGAS — The Nevada Senate voted 16 to 5 on Friday to advance a measure that would soften a statewide smoking ban, putting the state on track to become the first in the nation to ease restrictions it had imposed on cigarette use in public spaces.

The Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act, which took effect in 2007, bans smoking in any indoor space where minors may be present and where food is served. The new bill, which now moves to the Assembly for consideration, would allow taverns that offer food to permit smoking if they bar people under 21 from entry.

Many taverns in Nevada have video poker slot machines that provide a significant source of revenue, but the Nevada Tavern Owners Association said gambling revenue had fallen considerably since they had to stop patrons from smoking. Smokers have decided to gamble at the local casinos instead because the law excluded casino floors from the ban, said Geno Hill, the association president. “Our members’ gaming revenues are off 20 to 30 percent since the ban, and that’s before the recession,” said Mr. Hill, owner of the Rum Runner taverns in Las Vegas.

Gambling revenues over all have plummeted in Nevada over the past year, down 18.1 percent in February versus February 2008, according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board."