Harrah’s New Orleans Revenue Down

New Orleans' citywide indoor smoking ban, which began April 22, is to blame for Harrah's New Orleans' revenue decline of $9.2 million, or 30 percent, to $20.7 million in June 2015 compared to June 2014, said General Manager Dan Real. He said gamblers who smoke are patronizing nearby riverboat casinos.

Last month, gaming revenue declined by .2 million, or 30 percent, to .7 million compared to June 2014. In May revenues dropped 16 percent. General Manager Dan Real said, “The frustration exists. It’s a tough situation,” blaming the city’s two-month old indoor smoking ban for the revenue losses. He said gamblers don’t like having to go outside to smoke. As a result, they go to nearby riverboat casinos, where smoking at gaming tables and slot machines is allowed, or they gamble for shorter periods at Harrah’s.

Harrah’s officials had sought an exemption from the ban, estimating the casino would lose 20 percent of its business if it were enacted. An exemption was not granted, although Harrah’s officials noted local and state government would receive less in taxes.

Real recently asked New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, the city council and the state legislature for help. For example, Harrah’s would like to establish enclosed smoking areas just off the gambling floor, so smokers won’t have to go outdoors.

Real also recently asked state gaming regulators to support the casino’s efforts to lower the number of workers. Harrah’s is the only casino in the state where staffing levels are set in law. Currently the casino is required to hire no fewer than 2,400 employees, but Real said fewer employees would give the casino some financial relief and also boost workers’ pay. “This is not simply a financial request. It would not come anywhere near filling the funnel or the void created by the loss of revenue.” Real noted the casino has been hiring personnel it does not need. He added the reduction in employees would occur through attrition.

Gaming Control Board member Robert W. Gaston III commented, “It is just not fair for government to mandate on a private enterprise that they hire people that are not doing anything. With the smoking ban, you have got to give them more flexibility.” Board Chairman Ronnie Jones said the board will revisit the issue with the legislature next spring. “After a year of revenue reports, the legislature will look more favorably on this request,” Jones said.”

Naturally, non-smokers have been pleased with the smoking ban. “We hear every single voice, and we are trying to help,” Real said.