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Navajo Nation Smoking Ban Exempts Casinos

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The Navajo Nation Council voted 14-5 to prohibit smoking in public places on the 27,000-square-mile reservation with an exemption for gaming houses, reported the Associated Press.

Gaming executives had feared a smoking ban would negatively impact their business. Still, the exemption will be reconsidered once the tribe pays off its gaming-related debt—prospectively in about seven years.

"We're trying to mitigate our business risks associated with a 100 percent smoking ban, provide the jobs and revenue that the Navajo Nation so badly needs and at the end of the day become entirely smoke-free for our people," Sean McCabe, the chairman of tribe's gaming board, told the Associated Press. "Once we eliminate that debt, pay off that debt, our business risk is gone."

The nation currently operates two casinos on the New Mexico side of the reservation, and a third is slated to break ground in the state this year. A fourth gaming house, the $120 million Twin Arrows Casino, is planned on the 405 acres recently taken into trust about 20 miles outside Flagstaff, Arizona.

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The bill will soon hit tribal President Ben Shelly's desk. He had urged lawmakers not to approve it, but he hasn't indicated whether he would veto it or sign off the bill.