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Hancock County casino fights smoking ban

Weirton Daily Times photo by Shae Dalrymple Chris Kern, general manager of Mountaineer Casino, addressed the Hancock County Health Board at a public hearing Wednesday regarding the proposed Hancock County Clean Air Regulation, which would effectively ban smoking in most public places in the county. Bus loads of Mountaineer employees attended to voice their opposition to the ban and request compromise from the five-member board.
Weirton Daily Times photo by Shae Dalrymple
Chris Kern, general manager of Mountaineer Casino, addressed the Hancock County Health Board at a public hearing Wednesday regarding the proposed Hancock County Clean Air Regulation, which would effectively ban smoking in most public places in the county. Bus loads of Mountaineer employees attended to voice their opposition to the ban and request compromise from the five-member board.

NEW CUMBERLAND, W.Va. – The Hancock County Health Board faced a barrage of comments Wednesday at a public hearing regarding the proposed Hancock County Clean Air Regulation, which would effectively ban smoking in most public places in the county.

Bus loads of Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort employees filed into the New Cumberland Municipal Building sporting T-shirts that read “SAVE MY JOB” in capital red letters. They came to voice their opposition to the ban, which they said could potentially cost jobs at the casino as well as local gaming revenue.

Hancock County public health officials have repeatedly highlighted the dangers of exposure to secondhand smoke, but opponents of the ban implored them to consider the potential economic impact.

“I’ve heard from the board that this is a health issue, not an economic issue. The two cannot be separated from a practical standpoint. The employees who lose their jobs lose insurance. Not only should the board consider the economic impact, I propose that it is your obligation to consider the economic impact of the proposed regulation as it is written,” commented Vince Azzarello, senior director of human resources at Mountaineer.

Others echoed Azzarello’s assessment, including Jeffrey Sayre, an analyst at Mountaineer.

“The United States Secretary for the Department of Health and Human Resources wrote: ‘Poor adults are more likely to be in poor health, to be uninsured and to die at younger age than unpoor adults.’ Banning smoking will make people healthier, but hurting the economy will make people less healthy. But it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Why don’t we try to make the air a little better and protect the economy at the same time?” Sayre asked.

Sayre also apologized for comments he made to the board in previous discussions. He said that the proposed ban would result in layoffs at Mountaineer and the loss of $182 million in gaming revenue a year.

“Compromise” was the word of the night for opponents of the ban.

“Long story short I believe this board will find a compromise, because it’s in the best interest of all,” commented John MacMillen, another Mountaineer employee.

Chris Kern, general manager of Mountaineer Casino, asked to board to consider the long-term effects of the proposed ban on the county and its residents.

“Mountaineer currently has over 1,200 team members. Over 1,000 of those team members are full-time and have benefits. If this ban passes with no exceptions, some of those people will lose their jobs and/or their benefits…

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