Laurel sets aside areas for smokers

March 29, 1995|By Kent Baker

The workplace smoking ban that became state law Monday will have a substantial impact on Maryland's racetracks.

When patrons return to Laurel Park today for the live card and simulcast schedule, they will find smoking confined to designated areas -- including outside the buildings, the restaurants and Sports Palace -- and certain "grandstand and clubhouse seating areas that overlook the track," according to Maryland Jockey Club president Joe De Francis.

Cigars and pipes will be banned, and employees of the track will not be allowed to smoke anywhere.

De Francis said the biggest change will be in the pari-mutuel lines, where smoking will be prohibited.

"Those are the most important areas for non-smokers," he said. "They have the lowest ceilings and the highest concentration of smoke."

He added that the problem is not as severe at the state's off-track betting facilities, where rooms have been designated as smoking or non-smoking areas.

"We believe this will comply with the law, which is our first priority," said De Francis.

"Secondly, we want to strike a balance because a high percentage of our fans smoke. We want them to be able to smoke with relative, but not unfettered, ease."

Track officials have received considerable feedback on the smoking matter, which De Francis calls "the most difficult customer-relations issue we've ever faced.

"To make everyone happy, you'd have to have the wisdom of King Solomon, and even that may not be enough."

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