TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An advocacy group wants Kansas to ban smoking at its new casinos, arguing the state will violate the federal Americans with Disabilities Act if it allows customers to light up inside.

Smoke-Free Gaming, based in the Denver area, contends Kansas will be responsible for denying full access to individuals with lung and breathing problems because its lottery is legal owner of the new gambling. Of 13 states where non-tribal casinos are authorized, Kansas is the only one with such a setup.

A casino is under construction in Dodge City, and a state review board hopes to decide in December whether projects in Kansas City and south of Wichita can move forward.

Ed Van Petten, the lottery's executive director, is skeptical of Smoke- Free Gaming's arguments and plans to leave smoking bans to state and local policy makers. Anthony Fadale, state government's ADA coordinator, said he's still researching the lottery's obligations.

The group's campaign is part of a larger debate over smoking in casinos and other public places. It says 12 states prohibit smoking in at least some gambling venues, with Montana set to begin a ban next month. Casino operators have resisted such policies, fearing a loss of revenues.

"Casinos are really now are coming into the forefront,” said Stephanie Steinberg, Smoke-Free Gaming's chairwoman. “Think about the image of the dogs sitting around the table, smoking cigars. That image is obsolete.”

Earlier this year, the Kansas Senate approved a bill to impose a statewide ban on smoking in many public places, but the measure exempted gambling floors in new casinos. The bill stalled in the House.

When Wyandotte County enacted new restrictions on smoking this year, it exempted the gambling floor of the planned state-owned casino there, for as long as casinos on the Missouri side of the metro area allow smoking. County spokesman Mike Taylor said a ban only in Kansas would be a “competition killer” for its sister state.

“Smokers will vote with their feet,” said Eric Schippers, a spokesman for Penn National Gaming Inc., a Wyomissing, Pa., company involved in the proposed Wyandotte County casino. “There is no question that your business will do less revenues.”

The American Gaming Association reported that in 2008, two states that imposed smoking bans that year saw the biggest declines in commercial casino revenues. In Illinois, revenues dropped nearly 21 percent and in Colorado, the drop exceeded 12 percent.

But in May, a University of Michigan study said evidence from other types of gambling in Delaware and Massachusetts was “mixed.” Steinberg questioned whether casinos will lose money because customers must leave tables and slots to go outside to smoke.

On the Net:

Smoke-Free Gaming: http://www.smokefreegaming.org/

Kansas Lottery: http://www.kslottery.com

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

Summary

Date: 9/13/2009 3:30 PM

Slug: BC-KS-Focus—Casinos-Smoking,1st Ld-Writethru

Headline: Group: Smoking in Kan. casinos an ADA problem

Source:

Byline: JOHN HANNA,Associated Press Writer

Copyright Holder: AP

Priority: r (4)

With Photo:

Dateline: TOPEKA, Kan.

Lead

Editors' Note: Eds: ADDS Monday Focus note. UPDATES with additional

background on group's campaign and smoking-related issues and quotes

from group's chairwoman, lottery director, state ADA officer,

Wyandotte County spokesman, casino company spokesman. ADDS byline, On

the Net section.

Word Count: 875

File Name (Transref): K1155

Editorial Type: Lead

AP Category: n

Format: bx

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An advocacy group wants Kansas to ban smoking at

its new casinos, arguing the state will violate the federal Americans

with Disabilities Act if it allows customers to light up inside. Smoke-

Free Gaming, based in the Denver area, contends Kansas will be

responsible for denying full access to individuals with lung and

breathing problems because its lottery is legal owner of the new

gambling. Of 13 states where non-tribal casinos are authorized, Kansas

is the only one with such a setup. A casino is under construction in

Dodge City, and a state review board hopes to decide in December

whether projects in Kansas City and south of Wichita can move forward.

Ed Van Petten, the lottery's executive director, is skeptical of Smoke-

Free Gaming's arguments and plans to leave smoking bans to state and

local policy makers. Anthony Fadale, state government's ADA

coordinator, said he's still researching the lottery's obligations.

The group's campaign is part of a larger debate over smoking in

casinos and other public places. It says 12 states prohibit smoking in

at least some gambling venues, with Montana set to begin a ban next

month. Casino operators have resisted such policies, fearing a loss of

revenues. “Casinos are really now are coming into the forefront,” said

Stephanie Steinberg, Smoke-Free Gaming's chairwoman. “Think about the

image of the dogs sitting around the table, smoking cigars. That image

is obsolete.” Earlier this year, the Kansas Senate approved a bill to

impose a statewide ban on smoking in many public places, but the

measure exempted gambling floors in new casinos. The bill stalled in

the House. When Wyandotte County enacted new restrictions on smoking

this year, it exempted the gambling floor of the planned state-owned

casino there, for as long as casinos on the Missouri side of the metro

area allow smoking. County spokesman Mike Taylor said a ban only in

Kansas would be a “competition killer” for its sister state. “Smokers

will vote with their feet,” said Eric Schippers, a spokesman for Penn

National Gaming Inc., a Wyomissing, Pa., company involved in the

proposed Wyandotte County casino. “There is no question that your

business will do less revenues.” The American Gaming Association

reported that in 2008, two states that imposed smoking bans that year

saw the biggest declines in commercial casino revenues. In Illinois,

revenues dropped nearly 21 percent and in Colorado, the drop exceeded

12 percent. But in May, a University of Michigan study said evidence

from other types of gambling in Delaware and Massachusetts was

“mixed.” Steinberg questioned whether casinos will lose money because

customers must leave tables and slots to go outside to smoke. “The

same argument applies to someone who has to use the restroom,” she

said. “They're not afforded the ability to urinate on themselves at

the slot machine.” As for health issues, Schippers and other industry

officials acknowledge them but say measures such as high ceilings and

strong ventilation systems address them. Yet in May, a federal report

concluded that 147 dealers at three Las Vegas casinos were exposed to

chemicals in secondhand smoke during their shifts and recommended a

smoking ban. Van Petten said he wants to leave those issues to state

legislators and city and county governing boards. He acknowledges the

lottery could try to impose a ban through contracts with casino

operators but, “We don't legislate.” Steinberg contends the ADA —

designed to prevent discrimination and guarantee access to activities

and services — compels the lottery to ban smoking in the new casinos.

Amendments taking effect this year clarified the definition of

disability to include substantial problems with major bodily

functions. “There is an ADA enforcement action that should not be

ignored,” she said. During the 1990s, a wheelchair user filed a

federal ADA lawsuit against the lottery, saying too many of the retail

outlets selling tickets were inaccessible. The lottery prevailed but

was required to pay the man's legal fees and now has a program to

inspect retailers. Van Petten views the lottery's relationship with

casino managers as being like the ones it has with the retailers

selling its tickets. He's confident it will meet ADA requirements if

casinos have good ventilation systems or establish smoke-free zones.

Fadale, the ADA coordinator, said with private businesses, the

emphasis under the federal law is making sure their premises are

accessible. He said the state has a duty to see that its services,

activities and programs can be used by people with disabilities. So

far, he noted, U.S. Justice Department regulations accompanying the

ADA suggest a smoking ban isn't mandated. But Fadale said the state —

and the casinos — could face other requirements. “This is a work in

progress,” he said. “However it gets hammered or hashed out, we'll be

compliant with those obligations.” ___ On the Net: Smoke-Free Gaming:

http://www.smokefreegaming.org/

  Kansas Lottery: http://www.kslottery.com