Updated: Thursday, 07 May 2009, 11:17 PM EDT
Published : Thursday, 07 May 2009, 4:29 PM EDT
Hartford (WTNH) - Gov. Jodi Rell signed an agreement with Foxwoods Casino to voluntarily limit smoking areas. The deal comes after a similar agreement with Mohegan Sun. The two agreements probably mean that the proposal to force a total smoking ban at the casinos is dead.
The Mohegan Sun released an independent study showing that a total ban on smoking at that casino could result in the loss of between 2,000 to 4,000 jobs because smokers would gamble elsewhere.
"People are going to lose their jobs and that means everyone's going to suffer if we don't do this in a balanced and reasonable way," said Chuck Bunnell, Mohegan Sun.
So the state would not only lose some of the revenue it gets from the slot machines, it would also lose the income tax revenue and all other revenue related to those jobs. If the study is accurate, similar job losses and revenue losses would be suffered at Foxwoods for a combined loss to the state of over $100 million a year.
"The numbers are very sobering and that's exactly the kind of decision. Those are the points we have to weigh," said Rep. Betsy Ritter (D-Public Health Committee).
"I've voted for every smoking ban bill that's come before the legislature in the last 16, 17 years. But this one comes at very bad time and I'm afraid that it's something that we really can't afford," said Rep. Cam Staples (D-Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee).
But Foxwood workers, organized by the United Auto Workers, only see one side of this.
"What's being lost in this whole debate is the health risks to the employees," said Steve Peloso, Foxwoods dealer.
"I don't look at it that way. I think that by looking at the casinos and what work they have done already to reduce smoking areas in their casinos has really helped and has gone a long way," Gov. Rell said.
With agreements to voluntarily limit smoking at both Mohegan and Foxwoods now negotiated, and the possibility of large revenue and job losses, this proposal could be dead by next week.
"I would much rather negotiate than legislate when it comes to the casinos, as far as smoking," Gov. Rell said.
Workers tell News Channel 8 they don't believe the impact on business at the casinos would be as bad as the tribes are saying. The bill is scheduled for an important vote in the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee next week and sources say it may die without even coming up for that vote.