Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

OKC Council Passes Smoking Exemption for Remington Park

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

OKC Council Passes Smoking Exemption for Remington Park

Article excerpt

City Council members agreed to allow an exemption for Remington Park on Tuesday if the state Legislature enacts a law giving municipal government tighter control over public smoking.

Allowing smoking at the so-called "racino" track and casino would seem to be counter to the council's stance against smoking to improve city residents' health, several council members said. Even the author of the resolution, Councilman Pete White, said he was uncomfortable with the decision but that he felt it was necessary to help enact a new state law.

The resolution passed 7-2 with council members Pat Ryan and Larry McAtee voting in opposition.

Early in council deliberations, police officers escorted local musician John Taylor out of the City Hall council chambers after he lit up a cigarette in protest of the agenda item. Taylor, who participates in the organization Musicians for Smoke Free Oklahoma, said he was bothered by the hypocrisy of the action.

White said the council's support was intended to help state legislators. If passed, House Bill 2135 by state Rep. Kris Steele, R- Shawnee, would allow towns and cities in Oklahoma to pass anti- smoking laws more stringent than current state laws. Health Commissioner Terry Cline and state and local chamber of commerce leaders earlier endorsed the passage of the bill.

But Remington Park's presence in Oklahoma City could prove to be a glitch in the plan because it is owned by the Chickasaw Nation. Smoking is allowed at other gambling centers in Oklahoma because they are owned by Indian tribes and operate according to various exemptions under compacts with the state government. Legislators want to avoid the risk of opposition to HB 2135, White said, which would occur if Remington were put at a competitive disadvantage.

So White submitted an item for council consideration, which said in part, "If state pre-emption of tobacco regulation is eliminated this legislative session, it is not the city's intent to impose tobacco regulations, which are stricter than state law, upon any facility operating pursuant to a license issued by the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission. …

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