Smoke-Free Advocate Fuming Over Plan to Reverse Shreveport’s Casino Smoking Ban

Posted on: July 2, 2021, 02:49h. 

Last updated on: July 2, 2021, 03:01h.

A smoke-free consultant is taking the Shreveport, La., City Council to task for trying to exempt casinos from an upcoming smoking ban.

Smoke Free Louisiana sign
A sign outside a Shreveport, La., bar proclaims that smoking is not allowed inside. A ban on smoking is set to take place at casinos and bars in the city on Aug. 1. (Image: Shreveport Times)

Randy Hayden, a consultant with Americans for Non-Smokers Rights, told he knew there would be an effort to “delay, amend, or repeal” the casino smoking ban. Hayden is president of Creative Communications in Baton Rouge. The measure, approved last year, is set to begin Aug. 1. Shreveport is in northwestern Louisiana.  

When the tobacco industry and casino industry get in cahoots, you can bet somebody is going to suffer,” Hayden said. “In this case, it’s the employees, patrons, and vendors of facilities that were promised clean workplaces more than a year ago.”

Councilman James Flurry recently introduced an amendment to exempt casinos from the upcoming smoking ban. The issue could be addressed at the council’s next scheduled meeting July 13.

Flurry, who previously voted in favor of the ban, said a ban could drive gamblers away and lead to job losses at the city’s two riverboat casinos, according to KEEL News Radio.

Hayden told gambling halls don’t lose money because of smoke-free laws.

“They lose money because of bad management and literally dozens of other factors, such as high taxes and regulatory costs,” Hayden said. “If the City Council is so concerned about casino income, why doesn’t it lower its local boarding fees?”

Ban Delayed

In June 2020, the Shreveport City Council passed the Smoke Free Air Act, banning smoking in bars, casinos, and gaming facilities. The ordinance was to take effect in August 2020.

However, the City County delayed the ban for casinos until Aug. 1, 2021. Some officials were worried about job losses during the coronavirus pandemic if gamblers who smoke take their money elsewhere. Casinos and bars across the Red River in Bossier City do not ban smoking.

“We can talk about secondhand smoke all day long in these casinos and what it does to the employees. But if those employees don’t have a job, it’s going to be worse,” Councilman Grayson Boucher said last year,

Hayden said the ordinance that the council approved last year doesn’t “ban” smoking at casino sites.

“We are simply asking smokers to step outside, just like they do in every other business in the city,” the consultant said. “I don’t understand why the casinos are so willing to poison their own employees and most of their customers just to keep a smoker in his or her seat?”

‘Continued Guest Requests’

Casinos in other states also have banned smoking. In Las Vegas, smoking bans have been implemented at some casinos on the Strip.

In the newly opened Resorts World, smoking is banned everywhere except the casino floor. The $4.3 billion resort is on the west side of the Strip where the now-demolished Stardust once stood.

Also on the Strip, Park MGM banned smoking last fall throughout the hotel-casino. This resulted from “continued guest requests,” according to Anton Nikodemus, an MGM Resorts executive. NoMad Las Vegas, a luxury “hotel-within-a-hotel” at Park MGM, also has banned smoking. 

The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas has banned smoking from some public spaces, but not the gaming floor. The Cosmopolitan is on the west side of the Strip, north of Park MGM.

In New Jersey, a pandemic-related indoor smoking ban expires July 4, allowing casino patrons to light up. Gov. Phil Murphy (D) has said he would be open to signing legislation to ban smoking inside casinos.