WEEKLY FEATURE: Shreveport, Louisiana Lifts Casino Smoking Ban

Smoking now will be allowed at Shreveport’s two casinos, Sam's Town Casino and Bally’s Shreveport Casino, following the city council’s 4-2 vote to lift the smoking ban enacted in 2020.

WEEKLY FEATURE: Shreveport, Louisiana Lifts Casino Smoking Ban

The Shreveport, Louisiana City Council recently voted 4-2 to lift the smoking ban at Sam’s Town Casino and Bally’s Shreveport Casino.

Prior to the vote, Ashley Center, director of governmental affairs at Boyd Gaming, owners of Sam’s Town Casino, said, “The Shreveport smoking ban created an uneven playing field and put the local casinos at a competitive disadvantage.”

Vincent Schwartz, regional senior vice president at Boyd, added, “Making investments in a market that is not growing or that continues to decline really is not a good business decision. The current conditions in Shreveport will make it difficult to invest capital that could be deployed more effectively.”

The ban went into effect on August 1, 2020, following a majority vote by the council. One year later, Councilman James Flurry introduced a measure repealing a portion of the act to allow smoking in casinos and other businesses; it passed in a 4-3 vote.

Onjewel Smith, deputy director at Americans for NonSmokers Rights, told the council, “Data from the gaming control board shows no significant impact on the Shreveport casinos since the smoking ban was implemented. Smoke-free casinos operate successfully all around the country.”

Smith’s statement is supported by a report from the Centers for Disease Control Office on Smoking and Health, which examined air quality in Las Vegas casinos.

The report, “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Your Lungs,” compared smoke-free casinos to those that allow smoking and determined that prohibiting smoking throughout a casino is the only way to prevent the harms of secondhand smoke.

In addition, a report by Las Vegas-based C3 Gaming found that casinos that ban indoor smoking outperformed those that allow smoking. The report said, “Data from multiple jurisdictions clearly indicates that banning smoking no longer causes a dramatic drop in gaming revenue. In fact, non-smoking properties appear to be performing better than their counterparts that continue to allow smoking.”

In a letter to the Shreveport city council, Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects (CEASE), a multi-state coalition of frontline casino workers, wrote,

“By voting for this misguided and dangerous ordinance, you would be giving the greenlight to pregnant women working as table games dealers having to breathe secondhand smoke for eight hours a day. You would be saying it’s okay that workers like us are getting diagnoses of cancer, heart disease, COPD, asthma and other unacceptable conditions that our peers working other jobs don’t have to confront. You would be moving your city backwards when cities, states and tribes across the country are going the other direction to protect workers’ health.”

Engineers who design ventilation systems and form the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) also wrote to the Shreveport city council.

They stated, “As a technical society developing standards for indoor environmental quality, ASHRAE holds the position that the only means of avoiding health effects and eliminating indoor environmental tobacco smoke exposure is to ban all smoking activity inside and near buildings.”

Following the vote, Shreveport resident Shaleria Dominique said to Councilwoman Tabatha Taylor, who voted to lift the ban, “You were with me when I attended my first council meeting. You have been a champion for me and I have been proud to see a Black woman actively care for her city. Now we are here and I am saddened. Councilwoman, there are rumblings that you have personal interest involving your nonprofit that may be swaying your vote on this matter.”

Casino workers in Rhode Island also are rallying to urge lawmakers to remove the exemption for casinos and gaming facilities from the state’s smokefree workplace law. They held a press conference on May 25 prior to the state Senate Committee on Finance’s hearing on S438, which would make Bally’s Twin River in Lincoln and Bally’s Tiverton Casino smoke-free. Last month the House Committee on Finance held a hearing on companion bill H5237, which would

Rhode Island casino workers also started a CEASE chapter last year to urge legislators to protect their health and close the casino smoking loophole.

Currently 20 states require commercial casinos to be smoke-free indoors, and more than 1,000 gaming properties prohibit indoor smoking. At least 160 sovereign tribal casinos have banned smoking during and since Covid-19.