An anti-smoking consultant is urging Shreveport casinos to use aggressive marketing to attract customers wanting to gamble in a smoke-free environment. A ban on smoking at casinos in this Northwest Louisiana city is set to begin Aug. 1
Randy Hayden, a consultant for Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, told Casino.org the group has heard “lots of rhetoric” that smokers will take their money to casinos in Bossier City across the Red River. Bossier City does not have a ban on smoking inside casinos.
For every one smoker that leaves Shreveport for Bossier gaming, a good marketing campaign will attract two nonsmokers to Shreveport,” said Hayden said, owner of Baton Rouge-based Creative Communications.
Hayden told Casino.org resorts need to “break the old-school marketing schemes targeting smokers.”
“Aggressive marketing will attract the vast majority of potential customers who do not smoke,” Hayden said.
Job Loss Concerns
Some Shreveport officials have expressed concern that gambling halls in their city will have to lay off workers if customers bypass the two riverboat casinos there to gamble in Bossier City.
Councilman James Flurry told Casino.org a smoking ban won’t work in Shreveport unless Bossier City also prohibits casino smoking.
“We have to have a level playing field,” Flurry said.
Flurry last week presented a proposal at a City Council meeting to allow smoking in Shreveport casinos. He said he was worried about casino workers losing their jobs if the customer base shrinks.
Before the meeting began, Flurry told Casino.org, “I’m not going to be responsible for job losses.”
The City Council shelved Flurry’s proposal, paving the way for the Aug. 1 no-smoking start date.
In June 2020, the council passed the Smoke-Free Air Act, banning smoking in bars, casinos, and gaming facilities. The act was to take effect in Aug. 8, 2020. However, the smoking ban was delayed until Aug.1, 2021, because of the coronavirus pandemic. Flurry’s proposal would have exempted casinos from the ban.
Hayden said his organization will help with the transition to smoke-free casinos.
“They had 13 months from the time the original ordinance was passed,” he told Casino.org. “Some took advantage of the generous delay. Others are now scrambling.”
Wade Duty, executive director of the Louisiana Casino Association, told Casino.org that smoking bans lead to less demand for casino gambling, which could cut into job totals.
“If we have reduced customer demand, we have reduced staffing requirements and reduced vendor purchases,” he said.
Others contend initial fears over job losses don’t pan out.
At the National Indian Gaming Association conference in Las Vegas this week, Clinton Isham said an early slump in gaming wins at non-smoking tribal casinos in Wisconsin soon turned into a solid revenue stream. Isham worked with the Ho Chunk tribe in going smoke-free in Wisconsin in 2015.
“After two to three months of declines after the change, we had an unbelievable increase for three to four months,” Isham said.
Hayden said casino companies will try to make Shreveport a “test case” in showing that smoke-free resorts don’t make as much money.
“They will blame any reduction in revenues on the smoke-free ordinance,” he told Casino.org. “The Shreveport Council is aware this has happened in other areas, and we feel confident they will continue to support clean air over dirty profits.”
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