Christine Stuart photo

Using their newly found union clout, casino dealers with the UAW want state lawmakers to ban smoking at the two casinos, one owned by the Mashantucket Pequot tribe and the other owned by the Mohegan tribe.

The bill, which was raised at a public hearing Friday, would prohibit smoking in the regulated portions of the two casinos.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said Friday “As sure as I am standing here these casinos will be smoke free.”

“Maybe it won’t be this year, maybe it will be in five years,” but just like airplanes are smoke free and restaurants are smoke free, casinos will be smoke free, he said.

A dealer at Foxwoods, Hugo Romani, said simply “I need a job.” Others like Denise Gladue, another Foxwoods dealer, said she loves her job and has a lot of fun, but after 13 years of exposure to secondhand smoke she has asthma. “It’s just not a healthy environment for the workers and the patrons,” she said.

Yale Law School Professor Michael Wishnie said the tribes have raised concerns of sovereignty, however, there’s no question in his mind that the state has the authority to regulate smoking through its compact with the tribes that allows the state to regulate liquor. He said if lawmakers pass the legislation there’s no question in his mind that the state would prevail if there was a legal challenge.

Blumenthal said he believes the legislation could act as a fulcrum for a conversation between the two governments, the state and the sovereign tribal nations. He said he is still writing an opinion outlining the legal issues and would not comment on the scope or tenor of a possible legal battle with the tribal nations.