Council passes legislation to limit smoking at Casinos

by Dec 9, 2021NEWS ka-no-he-da0 comments



One Feather Staff


Patrons and employees at either of the casino properties owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will no longer be subject to smoking on a large scale.  Tribal Council passed Ord. No. 3 (2021) during its regular session on Thursday, Dec. 9 which limits where people can smoke at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River in Murphy.

Following passage, Lavita Hill, author of the legislation, told Council, “I’m so grateful right now.  This is amazing.  This is huge for the EBCI.  This is huge for us, as leaders in Indian Country, and I want to just thank you all.”

Voting on the legislation was as follows: For – Tribal Council Chairman Richard French, Vice Chairman Albert Rose, Wolftown Rep. Bo Crowe, Wolftown Rep. Bill Taylor, Cherokee Co. – Snowbird Rep. Bucky Brown, Birdtown Rep. Boyd Owle, Cherokee Co. – Snowbird Rep. Adam Wachacha, Big Cove Rep. Teresa McCoy; Against – Painttown Rep. Tommye Saunooke, Painttown Rep. Dike Sneed, Yellowhill Rep. David Wolfe, and Yellowhill Rep. TW Saunooke.

“We made a lot of money without cigarettes, pipes, and cigars being lit up in our casino, and I’ve been told by a lot of the employees up there that they are really grateful for that,” Big Cove Rep. Teresa McCoy said referencing the fact that the casinos have been smoke-free since the COVID-19 pandemic started.  “Second-hand smoke is almost as deadly as smoking.”

She added, “We’ve been doing it here with the Tribe (government) for a long, long time, and it’s working.  It’s a national thing that people are paying attention to.  You can’t smoke in restaurants anymore, airplanes, none of that.”

Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed agreed wholeheartedly with Rep. McCoy and noted,  “I personally like going to the casino now.  There’s no smoke and that’s great.”

The legislation was slightly amended prior to passage.

The submitted legislation included the following amendment to Cherokee Code Sec. 130-3503: “Smoking may be permitted inside an enclosed area located on the grounds of Tribal casino gaming Enterprises and which is specifically designated as a ‘smoking area’.  A designated ‘smoking area’ must be sufficiently removed from Tribal casino gaming operations so that smoke does not migrate into an enclosed area where smoking is prohibited pursuant to this Part.”

Chief Sneed offered an amendment, which was accepted, to add the word “non-smoking” to the first line so it would now read, “Smoking may be permitted inside an enclosed area located on the grounds of Tribal casino non-smoking gaming Enterprises and which is specifically designated as a ‘smoking area’.”

He explained the reasoning for the amendment, “That would give the property the ability to create an enclosed smoking room that has machines in it.  So, it’s a smoking area.  The way the language is written now essentially you couldn’t smoke around any casino operations.”

Cherokee Co. – Snowbird Rep. Adam Wachacha asked if customer surveys have been done on the subject.

Brooks Robinson, senior vice president and general manager of Harrah’s Cherokee, answered, “We haven’t done a specific customer survey on this, but we do learn through different surveys and reports called Bird’s Eye Reviews across all social media platforms, and that has been a point that we continue to get called out on – not having the ability to smoke and game at the same time.”

The legislation states that over 1,000 casinos in the United States, including many tribally-owned facilities, are smoke-free.  The Navajo Nation is the latest to issue a smoking ban in public buildings as Navajo Tribal President Jonathan Nez signed legislation to that effect in early November.