Kansas smoking ban would snuff casinos

Legislation has surfaced calling for a statewide smoking ban in Kansas.

Senate Bill 25, introduced by Sen. David Wysong, a Mission Hills Republican, makes no exception for casinos and would restrict hotels to allowing smoking in no more than 20 percent of their guest rooms.

In an interview today Wysong said he isn’t worrying about the effect on casinos.

“Casinos in the state of Kansas are a moot point,” he said, noting that only one, in rural Dodge City, has been approved by state officials.

In the meantime, he said, meetings with health care organizations around the state have led to what he said is “100 percent consensus” that any smoking ban in the Sunflower State should allow few exceptions and apply statewide.

In these fiscally tight times, Wysong added, a ban can contribute to lower state health costs to treat smoking-related diseases.

As for the effect on state tax coffers, “The science is proved out,” he said. “If a ban is across the board, it doesn’t hurt business. Where else are you going to go?”

Casino operators in Illinois might reply: “Missouri, Indiana, Michigan, Iowa and Wisconsin,” where smokers fled to gamble in 2008 after a statewide ban there took effect last January. llinois casino revenues in 2008 were down more than 21 percent.

The same thing could happen to a Kansas casino industry, where smokers would have the option of gambling at five tribal casinos in the state or at riverboat and tribal casinos just across state lines in Missouri, Oklahoma and Iowa where smoking generally is still permitted.

Wysong’s bill _ with precious few exceptions, like tobacco shops _ would slam the door shut on all smoking in public places, places of employment and in state-owned or operated buildings _ which, technically at least, Kansas casinos would be.

This will be Wysong’s third year trying to pass a statewide smoking ban. The measure gets its first committee hearing next week.

Submitted by Rick Alm on January 21, 2009