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SD casinos preparing for smoking ban

NORTH SIOUX CITY, SD (KTIV) -- A decision by South Dakota's legislature nearly two years ago is backed up by voters.

Starting next week, you can't smoke inside the state's bars, restaurants and casinos. It's a victory for anti-smoking advocates, but could cut into the bottom line of some businesses.

Tuesday night, 65% of South Dakotans voted to expand the state's smoking ban. It's expected to save the state millions in health care costs, but casino operators are trying to figure out what's next.

The owner of Beano & Sherry's Casino in North Sioux City isn't sure what to do with all of their ashtrays.

"Am I disappointed? Yeah. I certainly thought it would be closer, but the people did speak," said Sherry LaFleur.

LaFleur's opposed the proposal from the start.

"I guess I'm kind of a South Dakota girl and I don't believe the government should tell you what to do on your private property as long as it's legal," LaFleur said.

But starting next Wednesday, smoking inside casinos, bars and restaurant will be legal no more. LaFleur looks at other states that have banned smoking at video lottery establishments, and says business there has dropped as much as 25%.

"I think we're going to weather the storm. I hope that I don't have to lay off anybody, but if your revenue's down 20%, you've got to look at some tough decisions," LaFleur said.

Supporters of the ban say lost revenue is better than lost health. Plus, they believe it will save the state money in the long run.

"Smoking in South Dakota costs the state of South Dakota $274 million in health care expenses," said Erik Gaikowski of the American Cancer Society.

Gaikowski says the ban's a matter of health, and serves as an advocate for people to work in a smoke-free environment. He says becoming smoke-free will be a simple transition for businesses.

"It should not be much of a process for them. Basically, all they need is a sign that says 'this is a smoke-free establishment,' and that's about it," Gaikowski said.

Business owners say for them, it could be much bigger than that.

"There's a lot of people that I think will look elsewhere," LaFleur said.

The new law requires operators of places where smoking is prohibited, to tell violators about the law. If caught, a violation is a petty offense, which in South Dakota, could be up to a $25 fine.

The ban doesn't apply to tobacco shops, designated hotel rooms, existing cigar bars, or Indian-operated casinos.

Thursday, November 04, 2010


SD casinos preparing for smoking ban