On March 5, 2007, a planned smoking ban for bars and restaurants has some smoking customers very worried that they will be forced to stop their bingo game ritual. It is just a usual sight to see bingo players holding ink daubers in one hand and cigarettes in their other. Now the smoking ban planned by the Legislature threatens to put an end to that sight.
Mae Caskins, a retired police officer from Laconia, said that she really loves playing bingo and smoking while she plays, but she may have to stop going to bingo games because she cannot imagine not smoking for 4-5 hours while she plays.
It is still not clear whether the smoking ban passed by the Senate last month will affect bingo halls. For example, will it be applicable to bingo games held in commercial bingo centers, which could be categorized in another section of the proposed legislation that will still allow smoking in separate areas at a variety of facilities? The co-sponsor of the bill, Sen. Lou D'Allesandro, commented that smoking will still be allowed during the games. Sen Bob Clegg, who is against the smoking ban stated that the bingo halls will be included in the smoking ban because they do sell snacks and beverages.
According to the state's Pari-Mutuel Commission, the body responsible for regulating gambling, there are about 120 duly sanctioned bingo games held each week in the state. Sue Guay, a non-smoker from Pittsfield, plays bingo every week at the Bektash Shrine in Concord. She has asthma, so even if she is sitting in the non-smoking section, she still needs her inhaler after a bingo game. Thus, she is in favor of banning smoking in bingo halls.
The smoking ban passed the House by a margin of 33 votes but failed in the Senate by a single vote. It just passed the Senate last month in a 17-7 vote and is expected to be approved in the house. About a dozen states and hundreds of cities and counties across the nation have banned smoking in public areas like restaurants and bars. New Hampshire is the only state in New England that does not ban smoking.
Thursday, March 22, 2007