State Senate approves smoking ban for Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, but proposal dies in House.

The Connecticut Senate voted to approve plan that would form a negotiating committee to meet with the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes to try to reach a voluntary agreement bringing the state’s smoking ban to the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos. But just one day before the adjournment deadline of the 2008 regular session, a decision not to take up the proposal by House Democrats effectively killed the bill.

The proposal had been aggressively sought by some labor groups but opposed by other unions and by the tribal owners of the two casinos. Under the proposal, if the committee and tribal governments can reach no agreement by next spring, the existing state ban will kick in.

Members of the United Auto Workers local union rejoiced when the Senate bill was passed, 24-11, shortly before 10 p.m., according to a report in The Day newspaper. The union, which recently won the right to represent dealers at Foxwoods, had aggressively lobbied for the bill’s passage.

Estimates provided by the Mohegan Sun suggested the casino could lose as much as $193 million in total revenue, including as much as $30 million from slot machines that would be contributed to the state. Proposal opponents said Foxwoods could face equally large losses.

“The tribal nation is extremely disappointed in the vote,” said Arthur Henick, a spokesman for the Mashantucket tribe, told the newspaper. “The tribe continues to believe that a government-to-government dialogue would have been a more constructive way to address this question.”

But many saw the bill’s chances as slim beyond the Senate vote.

House Speaker James A. Amann, D-Milford, has told reporters he didn't plan to call the bill for a vote, citing the current budget impasse, in which Gov. M. Jodi Rell has said she would veto any bill with an effect on future revenues or spending, The Day reported.

Deutsche Bank analyst Bill Lerner noted that passage of a smoking ban for the casinos would help level the playing field with Atlantic City casinos, which face a full smoking ban later this year.