Mar 072006
 
Authors: James Baetke

To John Manning, running his Loveland dog track is dependant on smoking customers who make up an estimated 50 percent of his gamblers.

If lawmakers pass a statewide smoking ban without exempting racetracks, his business is doomed, Manning said.

"It would directly affect our business in a horrible way," Manning said, who is the general manager at Cloverleaf Kennel Club in Loveland.

The Colorado House of Representatives is currently considering Senate amendments this week. The Senate gave initial support to House Bill 1175, but weakened the original version by giving exemptions to small neighborhood taverns, bingo halls and race tracks.

The Senate kept casinos in the bill as exempt, a measure that was originally passed in the bill's approval in the House.

Stephanie Steinberg is a chairwoman for Smoke-Free Gaming of Colorado, a non-profit volunteer organization looking to get casinos cleared from the bill's exempt status.

"No workers should be left out," Steinberg said. "You should not discriminate against someone's health."

The workers who are most affected by second-hand smoke are the first ones to be exempt, Steinberg said. She wants legislatures to rid exemptions all together.

"No matter where you work, you shouldn't have to breath toxic air," she said.

Representing 80 casino and gaming workers along with several casino patrons, Steinberg says workers suffer from what they dub "casino crud," or symptoms associated with second-hand smoke. This includes mild to severe coughing, asthma, sinus infection and chest congestion.

Manning said if people are bothered by cigarette smoke they should simply avoid that business. The Cloverleaf dog track has a designated non-smoking area and about 20 percent of its customers utilize that area, he said.

"It would just be another nail in the coffin for this industry if they don't exempt race tracks," Manning said, who already struggles with paying high taxes.

Mike Poppenwimer, owner of the Sundance Steakhouse and Saloon on 2716 E. Mulberry St., supports the smoking ban and does not expect to see a loss of smoking customers if it passes.

"People come into the Sundance because we are the Sundance, not because we allow smoking," Poppenwimer said.

The Sundance is part of unincorporated Larimer County and as long as a business has a liquor license they do not have to be a nonsmoking facility.

"I support the bill, but it should be an even playing field," he said, who supports no exemptions in the bill.

Some lawmakers aren't thrilled with the new look of the bill.

Sen. Dan Grossman, D-Denver, said the bill likely won't be supported by health and business entities that once approved of the bill in original form.

"This is first, last and always about a health issue," Grossman said. "It's about protecting the people there earning a paycheck."

If the ban eventually passes it is unclear whether Gov. Bill Owens will sign it into law, but much of Fort Collins will not be heavily affected since a smoking ordinance already exists within city limits.

The local ordinance also exempts bowling alleys and bingo halls, along with hospital smoking rooms.

James Baetke can be reached at regional@collegian.com.

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