- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 19, 2009

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds on Thursday signed a law banning smoking from nearly all indoor public places, including bars, video lottery casinos and Deadwood gambling halls, which could see fewer customers as a result.

The governor said most people agree that bar and restaurant workers shouldn’t have to choose between their jobs and smoke-free air. “I think in this case, the health concerns top the other concerns that were expressed,” the Republican said.

Beginning July 1, smoking will be allowed only in motel rooms and a limited number of cigar bars and smoke shops.

Joanne Gubbins, finishing a cigarette Thursday morning before entering Sertoma Charity Bingo in Sioux Falls, said she’s not happy about the new law.

“I just don’t think the government has the right to do everything,” Gubbins said. “I mean, it’s getting to the point where they control everything anymore.”

Smoking restrictions currently in effect exempted Deadwood gambling halls, bars, video lottery casinos and restaurants that sell alcohol. Representatives of those industries fought the tighter ban all through the legislative session.

The ban could cut state revenue from gambling. An economist from the governor’s budget office has said a smoking ban could cut 15 to 25 percent of the more than $110 million the state gets annually from video gambling establishments that offer poker and other games.

About two dozen states and the District of Columbia have banned smoking in most public places, including bars and restaurants.

Jennifer Stalley of Pierre, an official of the American Cancer Society, praised the governor’s decision.

“I think it’s a big day for South Dakota,” Stalley said. “In the long run I think we’re going to save a lot of lives, a lot of money.”

Similar bans in other states have cut health care costs by reducing emergency room visits for heart problems, Stalley said.

Dave Parker, co-owner of the Sport Bowl bowling alley in Sioux Falls, said he’s not sure if the ban will bring in new customers, chase smokers out or both. His business has operated smoke-free on certain days to accommodate young bowlers.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Parker said. “It’s like we’re driving into the dark. It might be a good thing. We’ll wait and see.”

The law makes it a petty offense, carrying a fine of $25, for smokers who violate the ban and business owners or managers who fail to warn violators.

Rounds said smoking ban opponents may collect petition signatures to try to refer it to a statewide public vote in the November 2010 election. Such a referral would suspend the law from taking effect until after the public vote.

Associated Press Writer Dirk Lammers contributed to this story from Sioux Falls.

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