The New Orleans city council will debate a proposed ban on smoking in public places, which would include Harrah’s casino outside the French Quarter, a horseracing track and numerous video poker establishments. The Louisiana State Police, the agency that oversees gambling in Louisiana, said 4 million in revenues and state fees could be lost over two years if the ban is passed. Jeff Traylor, audit director for the state police’s Gaming Enforcement Division, said that figure was based on PriceWaterhouseCoopers’ estimates for Delaware and Atlantic City.
Ronnie Jones, chairman of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, said, “I just don’t want the City Council to take action without their knowing some of the unintended consequences.”
City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell proposed the smoking ban. Her spokesman, David, said Cantrell “is extremely mindful of utilizing evidence-based, peer- reviewed economic data to see what the actual impact will be on the city in terms of revenue, tourists visits, conventions and other categories.” He added the main goal of a smoking ban is to protect employees and customers from exposure to secondhand smoke. “This exposure not only severely affects their health but also drives up city and state medical costs, something state police report did not take into consideration,” Winkler-Schmit said.
Several prominent New Orleans musicians have spoken in favor of the ban, while owners of the city’s popular bars and nightlife establishments are against it. Louisiana passed a ban on smoking in restaurants in 2007, but it still is permitted in bars and casinos.