Smoking Ban Causes Revenue Decrease at Riverboat Casinos in Baton Rouge

"No Smoking" symbol

June casino revenues have been released by the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, revealing that riverboat casinos in Baton Rouge suffered a drop in revenues due to a citywide ban on smoking in public places that recently took effect.

Figures released by the Gaming Control Board show that, while the gambling facilities in the state brought in close to $224.5m (£170.9m) in revenues for June, the three riverboat casinos in Baton Rouge took a hit. Officials of the casinos in the area had warned that the riverboats would see a drop in revenues of 10-15% due to the smoking ban.

June revenue breakdown

According to the revenue report, the Belle of Baton Rouge saw a major drop in winnings for the month. The oldest riverboat in the city earned only $4m (£3m) last month, a decrease of $1.3m (£1m) from $5.3m (£4m) in June 2017. L’Auberge Baton Rouge, the largest casino in the region, saw its monthly revenues drop by a little more than 13%, to $13.1m (£10m). Last year, the riverboat casino earned $15.1m (£11.5m) in June.

The Hollywood Casino Baton Rouge saw a decrease of almost 12%, with $4.9m (€4.1m) in earnings, down from $5.6m (£4.26m) in June 2017. To try to counter any problems the smoking ban might create, Hollywood constructed a covered smoking area with 15 slot games on offer. L’Auberge Baton Rouge and the Belle did not create such areas, but the L’Auberge is considering doing so in the hope of recouping lost revenues.

While Baton Rouge had big losses in June, other areas of the state did much better. Casinos in New Orleans saw a 6.9% increase in revenues for the month, to just over $51m (£38.8m). Lake Charles venues saw huge gains; its three riverboats and Delta Downs racetrack earned $83.6m (£63.7m), an increase of 11.3%.

Smoking ban in effect

June 1 marked the beginning of the public smoking ban in Baton Rouge, with the new law banning cigarette smoking and e-cigarettes in public places. Businesses had about a year to prepare, which is how the Hollywood Casino had time to create the outdoor gaming area where smoking is allowed.

Smoking has been connected to gambling for years, as many players like to enjoy a drink and cigarette while they play the slots or table games. The goal of the smoking ban was to create a healthier environment for employees of venues such as casinos as well as for their patrons.

Commenting on the new ban, Ashley Hebert of the American Heart Association said: “No one should have to choose between their health and a paycheck. We have about 3,000 casino and bar employees in this city that are faced with secondhand smoke every day, and it’s putting their health at risk.”

It’s still too early to tell just how large an impact the smoking ban will have on riverboat casinos in Baton Rouge. Efforts are being made in the state to see that all bars and gaming facilities become smoke-free zones. A proposal was introduced back in April by Representative Dustin Miller that calls for a comprehensive smoke-free policy statewide. Passage of the bill would make all workplaces throughout the state smoke-free, including casinos and bars.

Along with Baton Rouge, other major areas of the state have implemented smoking bans within the past few years. Lafayette started its ban in 2017, while New Orleans and Hammond became smoke-free in 2015.