One point has become evident during Gulfport's discussion about a citywide smoking ban. Many people believe casinos should be smoke-free. However, right now, Gulfport's proposed no smoking ordinance excludes casinos and their amenities. On Friday, the ordinance's author said the proposal could be amended to keep smoke out of casino restaurants.
After listening to Thursday's public comments about the smoking ban, Brian Carriere realized that allowing cigarettes on gaming floors, but not in casino restaurants seemed like a logical compromise. He said he was trying to model his smoking ban after Atlantic City, where smoking is only legal on gaming floors. The councilman's ultimate goal is to come up with a citywide smoking ban that Gulfport's city council will adopt.
"My intent is to get something that can pass," he said.
The owners of the city's only casino have a much different goal.
"You know casinos are different animals," Rick Carter said. "I can tell you right now, if we have to compete on a different playing field than any other casino within a two hour driving time, it would affect me."
Carter understands why Gulfport would consider a no smoking ordinance. However, as the head of Gulfport's only casino, he opposes any proposal that could potentially take people away from his slot machines.
"All casinos in Gulfport would be limiting me," he said.
When the Island View owners expanded their resort last year, they added an air filtration system that pumps clean air through the casino 16 times an hour.
"Me being a non-smoker my whole life, I knew how critical it was," the owner said. "And we needed to make it as fresh as we can for our customers."
Carter believes that investment more than makes up for the fact that this casino does not have a no smoking area.
"Our facility is as smoke-free as any around here," said Carter.
Smoking is okay on on the Island View gaming floor. And it's okay in the C&G Grill. C&G and the Island View buffet both have smoking sections. However, there is a chance that smoking could eventually be banned at both restaurants, if the Gulfport City Council determines that casinos restaurants should be included in their no smoking ordinance.
"I'd listen to anything. What I would agree to, I would have to take it before my staff and see," conceded Carter. "We just ask that we have a level playing field to where we have other casinos involved."
Councilman Carriere believes a second public hearing may be necessary to get more feedback about his no smoking ordinance. And he said he was planning to talk with the Island View's owners about whether parts of their resort could become smoke-free.