The Shreveport City Council is considering a resolution that would repeal an indoor smoking ordinance that the local government agency passed only in 2020.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Shreveport local officials in June 2020 passed Ordinance No. 51, the Smoke-Free Air Act, which extended the indoor smoking ban to casinos and bars. Previously, the city allowed casinos and bars that derive the majority of their revenue from alcohol sales to permit indoor tobacco use.
Nearly three years later, the Shreveport government is considering flip-flopping its casino smoking ban. Local leaders said when the city decided to pass Ordinance No. 51, the city was under the impression that a similar anti-smoking resolution would pass in neighboring Bossier City.
But Bossier City decided not to follow through in banning indoor casino smoking. Some say that has given Bossier City’s three riverboats — Margaritaville Resort Casino, Boomtown, and Horseshoe — an upper hand over the two casinos in Shreveport.
In the coming years, Bossier will add a fourth casino once the shuttered Diamond Jacks property undergoes a $250 million redevelopment, resulting in a new above-land casino. Shreveport is currently home to Bally’s and Sam’s Town.
Smoking Sections Proposed
Shreveport Councilmember Gary Brooks believes the city should allow gamblers who wish to smoke the opportunity to do so. That’s why he introduced a revision to Ordinance No. 51, allowing the town’s casinos to designate smoking sections on their gaming floors.
Brooks’ proposal seeks to allow casinos to allocate up to 25% of their gaming space for smoking. That falls in line with Atlantic City, where casinos can also choose to permit tobacco smoking in one-quarter of the casino.
Brooks said the rest of the resorts would need to remain entirely smoke-free, including the casino restaurants and hotel.
Brooks added that Shreveport casinos have experienced a decline in visitation since the smoking ban went into effect. Opponents of reversing course when it comes to smoking say Bossier City casinos have also experienced patron declines.
I do think that our casinos are seeing a downturn. I can’t contribute that to not smoking,” Shreveport Councilor Grayson Boucher said during the council’s meeting this week. “I am not for going backward. I will not be voting to amend this legislation to allow smoking.”
Data from the Louisiana Gaming Control Board reveals that entries to all five Shreveport/Bossier City casinos have experienced similar admission declines since 2019. Compared with 2019, Shreveport casino attendance is down 32%, while Bossier City casinos have welcomed 29% fewer guests.
Health Officials’ Scold Consideration
The Shreveport City Council is expected to vote on reintroducing smoking on casino floors during its May 23 meeting. Health officials are encouraging councilors not to reverse course.
The surgeon general has said that smoke-free workplace policies are the only way to prevent second-hand smoke exposure at work,” said Alice Kline of the American Cancer Society. “Separating people who smoke from those who don’t, and cleaning the air and ventilating the building, cannot prevent exposure if people still smoke inside the building.”
Dr. Martha Whyte, regional medical director for the Louisiana Department of Health, said the council prioritizes the casinos’ economic health over workers’ health.
“The city council is focused on the economics of the casinos, but they’re not considering the health and wellness of the casino employees,” concluded Dr. Whyte.
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