Mountaineer reacts to Hancock smoking ban

NEW CUMBERLAND – The Hancock County Board of Health on Tuesday voted 5-0 in favor of a new countywide, indoor smoking ban that will go into effect on July 1.

The regulation bans smoking in all restaurants, gaming facilities, private clubs, sports arenas, places of employment and concert venues, as well as certain outdoor public places.

In a statement released Wednesday evening, Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort officials expressed their disappointment in the decision.

“We are both disheartened and dismayed with the actions by the Hancock County Health Board,” the statement reads. “We feel very strongly that the board and staff have acted in an unreasonable manner based on biased and inaccurate information and with prejudice to an outcome they determined months ago.”

Mountaineer officials previously estimated a 20 percent loss of business at the casino would result from an all-encompassing smoking ban. Such a loss, they said, would lead to layoffs at Mountaineer and a reduction in tax revenue for Hancock County.

Hancock County Commissioner Jeff Davis has publicly estimated an annual loss of $1 million in tax revenue would result from such cuts.

“With this 100 percent ban on smoking, Mountaineer anticipates a considerable negative effect on its business, which will force us to consider unfortunate alternatives,” the statement reads.

In recent months, Mountaineer officials offered an opportunity to compromise, saying they would make 80 percent of the resort’s hotel, 10 percent of the gaming floor and 100 percent of the public areas – including restaurants, trackside areas, banquet and meeting rooms, the Harv, the spa and gift shop – smoke free.

“The lack of diligence and the complete disregard of community input from residents by the members of the Hancock County Board are consistent with their actions, or lack of actions, over the last few months. The Hancock County Board of Health has shown a complete disregard for the documentation provided by Mountaineer as if a predisposed decision had already been made,” the statement reads. “Mountaineer received no response on its numerous requests to discuss materials, or any questions in regards to the information provided.”

Of West Virginia’s five casinos, only the Greenbrier, in White Sulphur Springs, and the Mardi Gras Casino and Resort in Cross Lanes prohibit smoking. Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races and Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack fall under county smoking bans that exempt gaming facilities.