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Arizona smoking ban hits jobs

1 August 2008

ARIZONA -- As reported by the Navajo Times: "The Navajo Nation's gaming czar said Tuesday he is eliminating 40 percent of planned jobs at the Fire Rock Casino due to the expected loss of business stemming from last week's council vote to ban smoking in public places on the reservation.

"Robert Winter, Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise CEO, predicted that the smoking ban would reduce gross revenues from the casino by 18-20 percent, and said employee numbers must be trimmed to fit the new projections.

"This means that instead of hiring 290 people when the tribe's first casino opens this fall in Church Rock, N.M., the casino is looking at filling 170 positions.

"With the expected decrease in revenue, said Winter, the only place that the casino can cut back is by reducing the workforce. Most or all of the positions were expected to go to Navajos, he said.

"Winter said the casino had planned to allow smoking in 20 percent of the facility, unlike other casinos in the area where it is not restricted. Smoking would have been banned in the bingo areas, restaurant and at the poker tables at Fire Rock.

"...But Winter emphasized that a smoking area is needed to cater to gamblers who want to smoke when they gamble.

"...While the number of Navajos who smoke has been estimated as low as 5 percent, the percentage is higher among the non-Native population and even higher for non-Natives who gamble heavily, Winter said.

"The ban extends to areas immediately outside public buildings, so it would not even allow gamblers to step outside the casino for a smoke, he said. Heavy smokers will have no choice but to take their business to other casinos in the area..."

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