For many of us, casino gambling and cigar smoking go together like Frank and Bing. Generations of first-time Vegas visitors have enhanced their experience via frequent applications of cigar smoke, just like those iconic Rat Packers of yesteryear with their impeccable suits, suave manner, and constantly-replenished supplies of alcohol and tobacco.
Which made it all the more surprising, for many cigar lovers, when the Nevada legislature imposed a public-smoking ban in 2006. That ban doesn't yet apply to Las Vegas gaming floors - there is such a thing as tradition, after all. But Atlantic City recently took Nevada's ball and ran with it: the New Jersey state legislature has instituted a smoking ban, effective October 2008, which includes the area's famed casinos.
All of which raises the question: where can a gambling smoker still enjoy a cigar?
Well, part of the answer depends on timing. Ontario, Canada, long a major vacation destination for gamblers, also banned smoking in casinos in 2006. This decision was particularly lamented by American visitors to the area, who took advantage of the Canadian casinos' proximity to cigar stores that sell banned-in-America Cuban cigars (though it's technically illegal for Americans abroad to buy Cuban cigars). Ontario's casinos acknowledged these smokers' concerns, successfully petitioning the province's legislature for permission to build special "smoking shelters." So you can smoke cigars during your visit to an Ontario casino - just wait till you're off the gaming floor and in the outdoor shelter.
Elsewhere in Canada, consider Edmonton, Alberta - or, actually, just west of it. Though public smoking is banned in Alberta, due to a 2006 ban, the Enoch Cree First Nation has voted to exempt its own casino from this ban. So visitors to the River Cree casino can light up.
Pennsylvania remains another possibility. Casinos fought successfully to be exempted from the statewide smoking ban passed by Governor Ed Rendell in June 2008. As of summer 2008, you can no longer smoke cigars in most Pennsylvania bars and restaurants, but you can smoke in casinos located outside Philadelphia. That leaves such places as Pittsburgh (with the Majestic Star casino slated to open in late 2008), Bethlehem (the Sands Bethworks Casino, also under construction), and a handful of other locations.
The Michigan legislature recently adjourned for the summer without deciding whether not to pass a statewide smoking ban. In the meantime, Wayne County recently passed a ban that exempts casinos. This means that the non-Native owned casinos of Detroit will continue to be able to compete with the state's several large Native American-owned casinos, which will not be subject to any statewide ban.
Biloxi, Mississippi, remains a favorite for Southern gamblers who like to smoke, owing to its lack of a statewide smoking ban. Though some larger Mississippi cities have banned public smoking, Biloxi remains a smoke-positive place, rendering its nine casinos attractive destinations for a smoker-gambler.
South Dakota casino owners, meanwhile, are relishing the prospects created by a statewide smoking ban recently passed in neighboring Iowa. According to reports in local newspapers, casino owners in North Sioux City are hoping Iowa's ban will drive smoking gamblers to the state's many casinos - while they worry that South Dakota might pass a similar law in the near future. After all, half the population of the United States currently lives in an area (state, city or town) where public smoking is proscribed to at least some extent - and the popularity of such bans seems on the increase. Even Mississippi's state legislature is considering one. So light 'em while you've got 'em - and no matter where you are, whenever you gamble, check before you light up. It's not fun to be ejected from a casino!
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