Ballot drive aims to ban smoking at Saracen Casino


PINE BLUFF, Ark. — A Pine Bluff alderman ups the ante in an effort to ban smoking inside Jefferson County’s new casino.

Bruce Lockett, who represents the 4th ward, started a ballot drive to make the Saracen Casino Resort smoke free.

This comes after Lockett tried to pass a smoking ban through city council last week. The ordinance he proposed failed, 6 to 1 with Lockett casting the only vote in favor.

“You can have a casino, not have smoking and gaming still happens,” Lockett said. “Let the people’s voices be heard about whether they want a smoke free environment or whether they want smoking on the gaming floor.”

For him the issue comes down to clean air for the nearly 2,000 employees who will work between the annex and main casino.

“If the greatest thing that the casino can bring to this community it needs to be healthy jobs,” Lockett added.

Air quality is something the casino says it’s not cutting corners on, installing an air exchange system at both the annex and casino that costs over $3 million.

“Every bit of air in this room is changed every 10 minutes,” explained Saracen Casino Resort Project Manager Carlton Saffa. “If we believed smoking would infringe upon a quality experience we would have a different position.”

State law okays smoking on gaming floors and Saffa believes customers ultimately will too.

“I think when this building open in a matter of weeks and people see what kind of experience this provides, the quality of that experience, the jobs and the revenue. I think this will be something in the rearview mirror,” he said.

Lockett has to prove there’s enough support to put a smoking ban on the ballot.

“We’re looking to get our 2000 signatures by the end of the month,” he said.

If the ballot drive works, the smoking question would be put to voters in November 2020.

By then the annex would already be open and the main casino would be a month from the slated open date.

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