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Smoking Ban Costs Las Vegas Airport Millions | Business

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Smoking Ban Costs Las Vegas Airport Millions
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LAS VEGAS -- It's meant to improve people's health but a smoking ban at McCarran International Airport enacted about four years ago is one of the reasons gaming revenues are down.

Airport officials say gaming revenues are down about $5 million from last year. They say there are three main factors for that and the smoking ban is one of them. The Clean Air Act was passed by Nevada voters in 2006 banning smoking basically anywhere except casinos, bars that don't serve food, and brothels.

As a result, McCarran got rid of its indoor smoking areas so now smokers head outside for a smoke instead of staying inside and playing the machines.

"It's time to take a break, gather my thoughts," said traveler Chris Wetzel. He says lighting up and chancing his luck go hand in hand. "They've both been together forever and now because one is not allowed its obviously taken its toll."

The airport's gaming revenue totals show a steady decline over the last five years totaling about $12 million.

Traveler Nancy Ewing who has a four-hour layover says the ban has made no difference to her. "I would have a cigarette when I felt like a cigarette, other than that I don't go near the machines at the airport," she said.

The only place people can smoke indoors at McCarran is at the Budweiser Race Track Restaurant. Owners got special permission from the Southern Nevada Health District by closing it off with glass and using a ventilation system.

"Every month we do an air balance test to ensure the ventilation is working properly," said Susan Goyette, company spokesperson.

The smoking ban is only part of the blame for declining revenues. "People aren't flying as much so there are fewer people going through the airport," said Chris Jones, airport spokesman.

US Airways has also eliminated it's overnight hub. "This was their one opportunity to gamble, they'd get off the plane, have an hour or two, they'd play the slots and then they'd be on their way to somewhere else," Jones said.

"If they're a smoker, it's great, it's pre-security. They can stop in and have a last cigarette," Goyette said.

The Budweiser Race Track Restaurant is the first in McCarran to try and attract the smoking passenger. Wetzel says it would be smart for other restaurants to follow suit. He says it's convenient and a way for McCarran's to recover some losses.

McCarran's gaming revenue goes into it's general fund and when there's a loss that trickles down to the airlines and eventually to travelers.

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