The smoking ban has been in effect for just over a month and local bingo halls claim it has already caused a drastic decline in the turnout.
Bingo halls throughout Middlesboro operate under various not-for-profit organizations. Local churches, clubs and boards receive the profits secured by the bingo halls.
Bingo representatives claim there has been a sharp decline in their sales since the smoking ban went into effect on Aug. 24, and as such they have been encouraging their players to help in an attempt to exempt the halls from the citywide smoking ban.
Petitions in support of the exemption status can be found at local bingo halls. There are two separate types of petitions — one for Middlesboro residents and one for those who live outside of the city. Bingo players come from not only surrounding cities in Kentucky, but from Virginia and Tennessee as well. Some groups ride a bus for several hours to come to Middlesboro to play bingo.
The push for involvement has went so far as to encouraging both smokers and non-smokers to attend city council meetings to voice their concerns with the ordinance and to allow the bingo halls the exemption status. The September regularly scheduled Middlesboro City Council meeting was canceled due to a death in the family of one of the council members. A special-called meeting to replace the canceled meeting took place the next week but since it was a special-called meeting, the rules of a special-called meeting would apply. The only items to be discussed were those that were on the agenda.
Bingo representatives have been asking players to attend the upcoming sub-committee meeting on Oct. 13. The sub-committee meeting takes place at 6 p.m. at Middlesboro City Hall. No action can be taken at the sub-committee meeting. The next regularly scheduled Middlesboro City Council meeting is scheduled for Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. at Middlesboro City Hall.
To encourage smokers to return to bingo and hopefully help retain the smoking players that have continued to play bingo, additional breaks to allow smokers an opportunity to go outside and smoke have been implemented. The additional breaks result in later ending times for players — a possible issue for those who travel a long distance to play bingo in Middlesboro.
The smoke-free distance around the bingo hall is the same as all other businesses in Middlesboro — no smoking within 20 feet of any entrance or exit.
Reach Reina P. Cunningham at 606-302-9091 or on Twitter @ReinaDailyNews.