Casinos in Shreveport, Louisiana, Looking to Reintroduce Smoking Two Years After Ban

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Shreveport City Council members are discussing the repeal of an indoor smoking ban that it imposed in 2021. Amid COVID-19 restrictions in June 2020, the council passed a temporary indoor smoking ban for bars and casinos in the Shreveport area.

In August 2021, Shreveport became the 30th Louisiana district to ban indoor smoking in commercial properties when it enacted Ordinance 51 to turn the ban permanent. Now some local lawmakers are concerned that the ban has had a negative effect on casino patronage.

Nearby Bossier City did not ban smoking at its three riverboat casinos. Shreveport Councilmember Gary Brooks says this has given them an unfair advantage over Shreveport’s Bally’s and Sam’s Town casinos.

Related: Our comprehensive guide to the best Louisiana online casinos

Casino Downturn

Brooks’ new proposal, tabled along with Councilwoman Tabatha Taylor, would once again allow smoking in Shreveport casinos. However, only 25% of the gaming space will be designated for smokers.

That 25% does not include restaurant, hotel, or convention space, which will all still have to remain smoke-free.

Casino resort destination Atlantic City has a similar policy, which has long proved controversial.

Shreveport casinos have seen a 32% decline in visitation since 2019. Brooks attributes much of this to the smoking ban, but not all council members agree.

“I do think that our casinos are seeing a downturn. I can’t attribute that to not smoking,” said Shreveport Councilor Grayson Boucher during a meeting to discuss the proposal on May 9. “I am not for going backwards, when the city of Shreveport went to Baton Rouge and received an award for this smoke-free ordinance. I will not be voting to amend this legislation to allow smoking.”

Louisiana Gaming Control Board statistics show that Bossier City’s casinos have also seen a downturn. They have been averaging 29% less customers than the pre-pandemic period, compared to Shreveport’s 32%, as reported by local Louisiana news outlet KSLA12.

Health Concerns

Health officials were also in attendance at the meeting. They confirmed the American Cancer Society’s position on secondhand smoke and workplace safety.

“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,”said ACS representative Alice Kline.

Dr. Martha Whyte, regional medical director at the Louisiana Department of Health, was also not keen on the plans. “The city council is focused on the economics of the casinos, but they’re not considering the health and wellness of the casino employees,” she told the meeting.

Elsewhere in the US, some casinos have seen customers stay away because they have legal smoking. Newly opened Rivers Portsmouth in Virginia has seen hundreds of low-scoring online reviews citing indoor smoking as a major concern.

Back in Shreveport, the potential repeal of their indoor smoking ban will be voted on later this month at the Council’s May 23 meeting.

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