Casino restaurants ready for smoking ban | NevadaAppeal.com

Casino restaurants ready for smoking ban

Becky Bosshart
Appeal Staff Writer

Smokers can light up while on the casino floor, but as soon as they go into the restaurant the butt must be extinguished.

Starting Dec. 8, smoking will be banned in casino restaurants, in addition to several other public and retail buildings. Though surprised by the approval of the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act, many casino owners and managers are ready to comply. Some casino employees and patrons couldn’t be happier. The smoking ban was approved by an eight-point margin in last Tuesday’s general election.

Patricia Martinez, who sat on the nonsmoking side of the Carson Nugget’s snack bar, said the ban has made a lot of smokers angry. Martinez is a nonsmoker. Soon, she won’t have to designate which area of a restaurant she wants to sit in.

“There’s nothing worse than trying to eat and then smelling that,” she said Monday while eating an early dinner.

Mike Hart, restaurant manager for the Nugget, said they’ll be ready to comply by December.

Casino Fandango consulted its lawyers and the health department to determine how it must comply. At first, there was some concern that the casino would have to erect partitions between the casino floor and the buffet.

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“All we have to do is go no-smoking inside the restaurant,” said Steve Forester, general manager for Casino Fandango. “Sure, smokers are going to be upset, but everybody has a vote.”

Casino Fandango seats 550 in Duke’s Steakhouse, the Rum Jungle buffet and the Palm Court Grill. A fourth restaurant with up to 200 seats will open in the northeast corner of the casino.

Since smoking will still be allowed on casino floors, many believe smokers will go there to eat, rather than hunker down in the cold weather outside Carson City bars. That worries Old Globe owner Hector Bucchianeri. His bar serves food, but he’s considered closing the kitchen to keep his smoking customers.

“It’s not any healthier to smoke on a casino floor than any other place, this is selective enforcement,” Bucchianeri said. “If secondhand smoke is bad, it’s bad anywhere: in a casino, in a strip joint, in brothels.”

Smoking will still be allowed in motels/hotels, taverns, saloons and bars that do not serve meals, retail tobacco stores, strip clubs and brothels.

“If you’re going to ban it, ban it everywhere. Don’t be selective. It makes you wonder what you have to do to be competitive,” said Bucchianeri, who is a nonsmoker.

Enforcement of the ban is still in discussion, said District Attorney-elect Neil Rombardo.

According to the Nevada Tobacco Prevention Coalition, which circulated the initiative petition that put Question 5 on the ballot, the purpose of the ban was to protect children and families from secondhand smoke in places where families often go to eat.

“Voters have spoken and it’s time to stop complaining and implement something that’s good for public health and good for business,” said Kendall Stagg, who wrote the act and has since moved to Chicago to pursue his master’s degree.

He said implementing the ban for all restaurants, including those inside casinos, made the playing field even. Those who still complain, probably would never approve the ban in any form, he said.

• Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at bbosshart@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.