6:00: Morning News

Casino loses smoking battle in Hancock County

NEW CUMBERLAND, W.Va. — The Hancock County Board of Health voted Tuesday in favor of a countywide public place indoor smoking ban despite objections from the county’s largest employer, Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort.

Mountaineer General Manager Chris Kern told MetroNews it was a disappointing vote.

“We put in a lot of energy and effort trying to communicate with the board, offering concessions, offering ideas for compromise. Those ideas were always accepted by the board, they listened, but they never communicated back with us,” Kern said.

The 5-0 health board vote makes the ban effective July 1, 2015. The ordinance also covers some outdoor public areas and if there are smoking areas they must be 20 feet away from a building entrance.

Kern said Mountaineer has never argued against the ban on a medical basis, he said everyone knows smoking in bad for you, but he said the argument is on a economic basis and the business and jobs it could cost the gaming facility.

“Now we’re going to have to have those unpleasant discussions about…exactly where this is going to impact us in terms of which departments and when we are going to have to make some tough decisions,” Kern said.

Mountaineer is in competition for gambling business with newer casinos in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Pennsylvania has a 50 percent smoking ban while Ohio casinos are smoke free. Kern believes Ohio gamblers will stay home if Mountaineer is also smoke free.

The ban won’t go into effect for 10 months and Kern hinted they may be enough time for Mountaineer to fight the decision.

“We have some alternatives available to us that we’re going to pursue,” he said. “We still feel like we have a few avenues we can go down in hopes of heading this off.”

There are now nearly 30 counties in the Mountain State with 100 percent indoor smoking bans in public places.

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