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Lottery commission's attention drawn to smoking-ban defiance

PIERRE--Video lottery establishments and city governments throughout South Dakota should be sent an official letter reinforcing the ban against smoking in those businesses, the state Lottery Commission decided Thursday.

PIERRE-Video lottery establishments and city governments throughout South Dakota should be sent an official letter reinforcing the ban against smoking in those businesses, the state Lottery Commission decided Thursday.

The commission's 7-0 vote came after a telephone conference with several people from Sioux Falls city government.

Sioux Falls city attorney Keith Allenstein detailed several years of attempting to enforce the smoking ban in some of the video lottery casinos there.

He said several of the businesses have been placing ashtrays and allowing video lottery players to smoke while sitting at the terminals.

State law allows video lottery terminals only in businesses licensed to sell beer, wine or liquor. Cities and counties control the alcohol licenses. State law bars smoking in businesses that serve alcohol.

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State law allows smoking in retail tobacco businesses, but the law bans those shops from serving or selling alcohol.

Sioux Falls city council member Dean Karsky said Thursday the city government sent a letter to video lottery establishments last year, but the letter didn't seem to have an effect.

Karsky said Sioux Falls officials have heard from other communities, such as Watertown, about similar difficulties observing the smoking ban.

"We know it's occurring in other communities," he said.

Lottery commission member Roger Novotny, of Fort Pierre, suggested the state lottery office mail a letter right away to all video-lottery license holders and cities.

"I would think we could send out something pretty quickly on what things are current," Novotny said.

Meanwhile, the lottery commission could hold a discussion at its next meeting on further steps, he suggested.

"I'm a believer in a level playing field," Novotny said.

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Lottery commission member Bob Hartford, of Pierre, asked if local governments could enforce the smoking ban by threatening to take away alcohol licenses.

"I would think that would be quite a club the city could use," Hartford said.

Allenstein said "sometimes there is reluctance" in Sioux Falls to take that route, because the choice is either "go nuclear" and take away an alcohol license, or allow the business to continue to operate.

Allenstein said a handful of $25 petty offense citations have been issued against customers found smoking during law enforcement stings this year.

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