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    Vegas C-Stores Fuming over Smoking Ban

    Retailers claim ban puts them on an "uneven playing field."

    LAS VEGAS -- Since the passing of Question five, which imposed a stricter ban on smoking in public places, retailers here -- including convenience stores -- are facing economic hardship, reported the Las Vegas Business Press.

    The measure prohibits smoking in restaurants and bars where food is prepared and served. In addition, convenience and grocery stores must become smoke-free as of Dec. 8. The exceptions to the new ban include casinos and bars that serve packaged snacks.

    Of the 767 convenience stores in the state, many get profits from the slot routes in stores. "Many of our stores derive 40 percent of their gross revenue from slots," Jeff Lenard, spokesman for NACS told the Business Press.

    Lenard continued: "Unlike the rest of the country, Vegas has cheap buffets that are plentiful, so food isn't really an option to grow sales [in convenience stores], but gambling is." He added "It will be more challenging because gamblers may want to smoke."

    Because the slots are typically rented from slot-route operators, gross revenue sharing contracts are in place. "Most of the contracts are written so if the revenue goes down, the operator's percentage goes up," Peter Kruger, the president of the Nevada Petroleum Marketers Association told the paper.

    But some convenience operators have been left in the dark. "Doesn't it have to be voted on by the [Nevada] legislature?" asked John Athey, the owner of City Stop. "It's not a law." City Stop owns 10 stores in Las Vegas and has installed awnings outside to make it easier for customers to smoke. But Athey still fears that cigarette sales will drop because of the ban. "It's just another assault on our business," he told the paper.

    If this wasn't bad enough for Las Vegas convenience stores, Question six was also passed, which raised the minimum wage in the state by $1, to $6.15 an hour. "There's a lot of angst out there," Kruger concluded.

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