Are smoking bans too trendy?

The answer to the question, is unequivocally becoming yes as each week passes by. We’ve seen state after state and city after city begin to fall in line like dominoes.

With many states passing laws to prohibit smoking in any public area, some US casinos are considering a similar move, despite the fact that most consider gambling and smoking to virtually go hand in hand. Like it or not, public sentiment in many circles has shifted against smokers of both cigars and cigarettes, with more states joining the anti-smoking crusade and going so far as to banning smoking not just in restaurants and other public areas but also in bars.

Here in St. Louis we saw this happen January 1st of 2011, and now in St. Louis county bars are no longer allowed to let their clientele smoke inside. Below are the only current exemptions to this law :

Law does NOT cover:
1) “drinking establishments” that sell 25% or less of their revenue for food; list of exempted places here
2) casinos
3) retail tobacco stores (with 60% or more from sale of tobacco)
4) cigar bars
5) outdoor dining areas
6) private clubs (not exempt when open to the public)
7) private residences not serving as a place of employment
8) 20% of hotel/motel rooms (if designated)

Rumors in St. Louis have begun to surface, and it seems as if these exceptions are going to fall by the waist-side in time as well. Specifically, casinos are at a major risk for being banned and seem to be the primary target of the smoke-free organizations.

The irony of the situation, is that the same people that these crusaders of smoke-free cities are discriminating against and attacking are the same individuals that pay major taxes towards the public school systems and Department of Transportation. Imagine, we target the major Casino’s in St. Louis and as a result you can no longer smoke within them. The potential chain effect is that the Casino’s will lose gamblers, and this will result in less taxable revenue, that in turn will result in less taxes for the kids and potholes.

Is this something that the state really wants, moreover is it something that the state can financially bare should this prophecy ring true? Personally speaking, I think not. To summarize my thoughts on this, I’ll quote one the all time great movie characters in Tyler Durden from Fight Club :

Tyler Durden : “Hi. You’re going to call off your rigorous investigation. You’re going to publicly state that there is no underground group. Or… these guys are going to take your balls. They’re going to send one to the New York Times, one to the LA Times press-release style. Look, the people you are after are the people you depend on. We cook your meals, we haul your trash, we connect your calls, we drive your ambulances. We guard you while you sleep. Do not… fuck with us.”

While many casinos in Nevada and other states offer non-smoking areas (including designated non-smoking pits on the casino floor) very few have made the plunge to be entirely smoke-free. It’s a difficult balancing act between satisfying the majority of customers but also complying with state and federal laws in regards to workplace safety; while gamblers can get up and leave if they don’t want to sit next to a smoker, a dealer at a casino has no choice but to literally “suck it up” and deal.

The fact is, that passing draconian non-smoking laws might appeal to some voters, but it could also reduce overall gambling in casinos and lead to a decline in tax revenues as I mentioned earlier. I’m rather sure this will land as a particularly harsh blow for several states that are still struggling to recover from the recession in the US.

The real problem may not really involve smoking inside at all, by this I mean that on a long enough time line we may see smokers being herded like sheep into small quarters in outside environments that are designated spots for one to smoke. No, I promise I’m not taking notes from the doom and gloom self-proclaimed prophet and radical Glenn Beck, these facts are real and the worse case scenarios can become realities. Evidence of this can be seen on many beaches in California, where smoking is now prohibited, and locally in Clayton, Missouri where smokers must remain 100 feet from storefronts when smoking any tobacco product.

I could argue that for the gamblers who have serious problems with second-hand smoke there’s always the option of playing at an internet casino instead, which then jeopardizes their rights rather than ours. Not only do online casinos guarantee to be smoke-free but they provide a quick and easy way to enjoy hundreds of popular casino games from the comfort of one’s own home. Players are also often eligible for generous bonuses and promotions which you won’t find in any traditional casinos, including sign-up bonuses that can double or triple the amount of money you initially deposit. Those details, while fabulous selling points may still not be able to entice people to sit at home and gamble.

Let’s face it, people go to casinos for the atmosphere; bustling bodies through the night, unparalleled ambiance from the hundreds of neon lit machines and dazzling signs, rolling dice and spinning roulette machines accompanied by players with stogies in hand. Get the picture? The intrinsic value of gambling live in a real casino can be hard to replicate. Some people will do without, and some people will opt to continue going to real casinos despite the anti-smoking bans that unanimously take away a major element of the casino atmosphere.

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