The state Lottery Commission wants city governments and the video lottery casinos they oversee to be more diligent in their enforcement of the statewide smoking ban in those businesses, and is sending them an official letter stating as such.

The decision to send the letter that demands the state law be followed was made this past week during a teleconference held by the Lottery Commission. The commission’s unanimous vote followed reports received from several individuals within the Sioux Falls city government, where there are more smoking-related complaints or where illegal smoking appears to be more of a problem than in other regions of the state.

Several years of efforts to enforce the smoking ban in some of Sioux Falls’ video lottery casinos have been detailed by Keith Allenstein, the city’s attorney. He said ashtrays have been set out by several of the businesses for video lottery players who they’re allowing to smoke as they sit at the terminals. Only businesses licensed to sell beer, liquor, or wine are permitted by the state to possess video lottery terminals and smoking in those establishments is illegal.

While some smoking offenses likely occur at casinos in western South Dakota, according to lottery officials and police the problem has yet to lead to the issuance of widespread citations in the area. On Thursday, Sioux Falls city council member Dean Karsky said that last year video lottery establishments were sent a letter from the city government but that it didn’t seem to have an effect, according to the Rapid City Journal.

City officials from other regions of the state said they weren’t aware of any complaints regarding illegal casino smoking other than in Sioux Falls. The same was said by lottery commission member Doyle Estes, of Hill City, but he added that the smoking laws should be enforced equally to prevent casinos that might be overlooking customers noncompliance from having an unfair advantage over those casinos conducting business within the law. Estes said on Friday, that the state legislature needs to beef up the penalties for non-compliance by casino owners who are repeat offenders, which could include the non-renewal of a license.

However, until there is some balance between possible penalties for non-compliance, it seems the letters will have to suffice.

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