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Line in the sand

Line in the sand

The time has come to draw the line. Casinos  have been hurt dramatically by the anti-smoking advocates. Revenue has dropped, jobs have been lost and customers have been disappointed.

But more importantly, our society has been damaged by these supposed do-gooders.

It’s not even a debate anymore. The evidence is overwhelming that the introduction of smoking bans reduces gaming revenues by as much as 20 percent, depending upon the availability of competing gaming venues that permit smoking.

From around the world the reports are coming in on the impact of smoking bans.

In Australia, gaming in the state of Victoria has been demolished by the extraction of smokers from the marketing pool. And other anti-gambling trends have exacerbated an already-serious problem.

In the U.K., casinos and bingo halls have experienced such a loss of business that many bingo halls have closed and some of the smaller casinos may soon follow suit.

French casinos are also teetering on disaster as tobacco smokers were shut out earlier this year.

In Illinois, six months of a smoking ban have seen revenues plunge more than 20 percent on most of the boats.

Colorado casino revenue plunged more than 10 percent the first two months of a smoking ban.

Atlantic City casinos have endured a partial smoking ban for a year and are soon slated to do away with smoking altogether. Along with increased competition from Pennsylvania (where smoking is still permitted) and the economy, the city’s 30-year win streak of increasing revenues was ended in 2007.

These revenue declines have caused job losses and had a very real impact on the lives of investors, employees and customers.

And it’s time to fight any further expansion of this unfortunate trend. I’m guilty of not being forceful enough in my opposition to a smoking ban.

As a dealer in Atlantic City for six years, I experienced firsthand the rudeness of smokers at gaming tables. It was very annoying, especially since I never smoked in my life. But I knew what the job was before I started and didn’t have the right to complain—at least to management.

But if smokers were rude at my tables, the anti-smoking zealots are purely hateful when it comes to imposing a smoking ban. They accuse casino executives of not caring about—even plotting against—the health of their employees and customers.

The fact is they care very much about the employees. They want their employees to thrive and continue to be employed by their company. When revenue drops as much as it has as a result of smoking bans, layoffs are inevitable. So not only do the smoking-ban fanatics cause a loss of jobs, but they also impact the very lives of casino employees.

And casinos certainly care about their customers. It is those very customers who enjoy smoking who will find another place to gamble where they can smoke if a ban is introduced.

It’s time we fought back and stopped accepting the “facts” as demanded by the anti-smoking zealots. The body of work on secondhand smoke is not all they pretend it to be. A study published recently in the British Medical Journal found that secondhand smoke does not increase the risk of heart disease or lung cancer. Now to be fair, this is a controversial study that many disagree with, but that may be because it challenges the very assertion that secondhand smoke is deadly in any form.

Absolutely no attention is paid to the enormous technological leaps that have been made in recent years with air-filtration. The top-of-the-line equipment can filter all the air in a large casino in about five minutes.

So, the facts about the impact of smoking bans on casinos are well-known. They result in job losses, precipitous revenue declines and a devaluing of the casino company.

Do we know enough about secondhand smoke to take these drastic steps? And have we researched the viability of air-handling systems and their ability to eliminate secondhand smoke? I think the answer to both of these questions is “no,” and I think it’s time we learned more before we turn our businesses over to people who know nothing more than their anti-smoking fanaticism.

 It’s time we drew that line in the sand.

Roger Gros is publisher of Global Gaming Business, the industry's leading gaming trade publication, and all its related publications. Prior to joining Global Gaming Business, Gros was president of Inlet Communications, an independent consulting firm. He was vice president of Casino Journal Publishing Group from 1984-2000, and held virtually every editorial title during his tenure. Gros was editor of Casino Journal, the National Gaming Summary and the Atlantic City Insider, and was the founding editor of Casino Player magazine. He was a co-founder of the American Gaming Summit and the Southern Gaming Summit conferences and trade shows. He is the author of the best-selling book, How to Win at Casino Gambling (Carlton Books, 1995), now in its fourth edition. Gros was named "Businessman of the Year" for 1998 by the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce, and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Gaming Association in 2012.

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