OLR Research Report

May 18, 2007




By: Saul Spigel, Chief Analyst

You asked whether Connecticut law bars smoking at bingo events, particularly those held at private clubs. You also wanted to know whether neighboring states' laws govern smoking at bingo events.

Whether people can smoke at bingo games depends on where the games are located. Connecticut law expressly prohibits smoking inside (1) public buildings, (2) health care institutions, (3) retail food stores, (4) restaurants, (5) school buildings while school is in session, (6) college dorms, (7) dog tracks and simulcasting facilities, and (8) establishments holding specified liquor permits, including private clubs that first obtained a club permit on or after May 1, 2003 (CGS 19a-342(b)). Smoking at bingo games held in any of these places is prohibited.

This express prohibition does not cover establishments holding club liquor permits issued before May 1, 2003. Department of Public Health (DPH) staff state that smoking at a bingo game in such a private club would be permitted if the club admitted only members and their guests to bingo. However, DPH staff consider a private club that admits people other than members and their guests to be operating as a restaurant rather than a club, which would prohibit smoking there.

Private clubs and other facilities where bingo may be played (e.g., churches or synagogues) are also subject to the law governing smoking in the workplace. This law permits smoking at business facilities with four or fewer employees (unless the employer decides to make the facility smoke-free); it prohibits smoking in facilities where five or more people are employed (CGS 31-40q).

Massachusetts prohibits smoking in “membership association” facilities when the public is invited (e.g., through advertisements, signs, invitations) to attend an event such as bingo. Association members, their invited guests, and employees may smoke during such an event but only if (1) the facility has an enclosed space separate from the area open to the public, (2) members of the public are excluded from this space, and (3) the association ensures that the public does not enter the space. A membership association is a private, nonprofit entity established for charitable, educational, recreational, social, athletic, religious, or similar purposes. The term includes churches and veterans' organizations (M.G.L. ch 270, 22).

Rhode Island prohibits smoking in bingo facilities when a bingo game is in progress and in all enclosed places where people are employed. Facilities with a class D (club) liquor license that employed fewer than 10 people were exempt from this latter rule until October 1, 2006 (R.I.G.L., ch. 23-20.10)

New York prohibits smoking in bingo facilities. It permits smoking in membership association facilities, but only where all duties related to the association's operation, including food and beverage service, are performed by uncompensated volunteers (N.Y., Public Health Law, Article 13-E).