Harrah’s venues in Murphy

North Carolina: Cherokee casinos set special smoking areas, removed from gaming

Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River in North Carolina.
Reading time 1:55 min

The Tribal Council of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has passed Ord. No. 3 during its regular session, held last Thursday. The rule will limit where people can smoke at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River in Murphy, the two gambling properties the tribe owns in North Carolina.

The legislation aims at making both patrons and employees at the properties no longer be subject to smoking on a large scale. “I’m so grateful right now,” Lavita Hill, author of the legislation, told Council, according to Cherokee One Feather. “This is huge for us, as leaders in Indian Country.”

The legislation passed in a 7-4 voting. The tribe expects to maintain its successful operations despite the smoking ban, while employees have shown support for the newly-passed measure. The measure was slightly amended prior to its passage.

The amendment states smoking may be permitted “inside an enclosed area” located on the ground of the tribal casinos, which must be specifically designed as a “smoking area.” Said area must be “sufficiently removed” from gaming operations so that smoke does not migrate into enclosed areas where smoking is prohibited.

“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, further reports One Feather.

In response to a question on whether customer surveys had been conducted on the subject, senior vice president and general manager of Harrah’s Cherokee Brooks Robinson admitted no specific surveys on the subject had been done, but that the venue learned through reports called Bird’s Eye Reviews across social media platforms.

“And that has been a point that we continue to get called out on,” said Robinson. “Not having the ability to smoke and game at the same time.” The Cherokee casinos previously allowed indoor smoking in designated areas, but they were not completely partitioned off from the supposedly smoke-free sections.

Indoor casino smoking is set to remain off-limits until the new areas are built, for which no timetable has yet been announced. Smoking areas will be staffed only by employees willing to work in the environment.

Potential benefits which could result from the new legislation include reductions of health insurance premiums and casino staff using fewer sick days thanks to working in a smoke-free environment. Casinos' fire and liability insurance costs could also be cut, while cleaning and maintenance costs will also go down.

The legislation takes note of how over 1,000 casinos in the United States currently offer smoke-free gaming, many of them tribally-owned facilities. The Navajo Nation is the latest to issue a smoking ban in public buildings: Navajo Tribal President Jonathan Nez signed legislation enforcing the prohibition in early November.

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