How Will the Smoking Ban Affect New Orleans Casinos?

The city of New Orleans implemented a full ban on smoking in bars, restaurants, casinos, and other public spaces in April of 2014.

The purpose of the law was to extend existing statewide smoking bans within the city limits. The new law means it is illegal to smoke within five feet of everything from public parks to colleges and even the city’s jails and prisons.

The use of e-cigarettes and vaporizers is also considered smoking. So that’s banned too.

How do the operators of gambling venues in New Orleans feel about it?

They’re upset.

The Louisiana State Police, which oversees gambling in Louisiana, predicted that the state could lose $104 million in tax revenue and fees from the implementation of this ban. That number came from the Gaming Enforcement Commission’s notes on a study done on smoking bans in Atlantic City and Delaware gaming properties.

That study, which you can read as a PDF file here, accurately predicted a 12% decrease in revenue for the state of Delaware after a smoking ban in gambling halls in that state. Another arm of that study predicted a huge decrease of 20% in Atlantic City’s profits across a two-year period after a smoking ban in South Jersey, though that prediction hasn’t been tested yet.

Their argument is simple enough. As the New Orleans advocate puts it, “[Casinos, restaurants, and bars] argue that tourists come to New Orleans because they like to gamble and drink. The city is one of the last to allow smoking in some public places.” To take that away will change people’s attitude about New Orleans.

How many will simply decide not to come back?

What have they done about it?

Opponents of the ban have been active.

First, Harrah’s tried to delay the ban, claiming they needed more time to help their employees and customers adjust to the new rules. New Orleans City Council saw through that smokescreen (pun totally intended), shaming Harrah’s for trying to amend city law to benefit their own interests. For their part, Harrah’s is currently involving New Orleans in a difficult and costly lease renegotiation which has to be seen as an attempt at revenge on the part of the casino.

What Harrah’s did next was brilliant. Before the ban went into effect, the property made a huge show of becoming “the first smoke-free casino in Louisiana.” At midnight two days before the ban went into effect, they ceremonially removed ashtrays, handed out lollipops for frustrated smokers, and made a big to-do of their early adoption.

It was a brilliant move because they were planning a counter-attack the entire time.

Next, Harrah’s joined forces with many other local businesses affected by the ban and filed a lawsuit in civil court to strike it down. This action was more effective. It included several large local businesses (including Pat O Brien’s, Broussard’s, and several other New Orleans landmarks) and focused on the potential loss of revenue facing the city.

The hearing was scheduled for May 21. That lease negotiation Harrah’s is forcing on the city? It could cost New Orleans anywhere from $4 – $30 million dollars, which Harrah’s says is the cost of forcing the smoking ban on their successful gaming enterprise.

Who benefits from the New Orleans smoking ban?

I’m cynical, but not too cynical. This might smarmy, too.

I’m okay with that.

Here’s who benefits from the New Orleans smoking ban:

The people who visit bars, hotels, restaurants, casinos, and other public spaces all benefit.

We know secondhand smoke is dangerous. The American Cancer Society says secondhand smoke kills 42,000 people a year. It’s bad and you probably agree that it should be banned, unless you’re a libertarian or anarchist or something.

But beyond that – people these days don’t like to go places where smoking takes place. Times have changed – gone are the days when going home from your waitressing job smelling like a cigarette was no big deal because everybody smoked. These days, fewer people smoke, and the ones who don’t simply don’t want to be around it.

City Council Member Latoya Cantrell, who sponsored the law and has been vocal about her support for it, points out that secondhand smoke exposure costs the state millions of dollars a year in healthcare costs. That’s another angle to consider. It might be fiscally irresponsible to continue to allow smoking in public, at least according to the ban’s proponents.

So what’s going to happen?

Harrah’s is trying to put its money where its mouth is, threatening to shrink its state-mandated work force from 2,400 to 1,500. They’ve got legislation under consideration which would allow them to do just that.

With pressure on the city council from judges more than ready to rule in favor of existing liberties, it’s not totally clear that the city will be able to maintain the ban as it exists now.

Bartenders and business owners continue to make the same point – you’ll read it in this article from VICE and in this from the Guardian. What is going to happen when neighboring businesses get sick of the smokers pouring out of bars, casinos, and restaurants every few minutes? That seems to be the real threat to shop owners concerned about their customers getting up and leaving to satisfy their nicotine habit.

If I had to make a prediction, I’d say that the ban is here to stay. I can’t find a single example of a city getting rid of a smoking ban once it’s been put in place. It just doesn’t happen. As for how the city will be affected, I’d predict that Harrah’s is going to continue making a stink until they earn an exemption from the New Orleans City Council.

That means the city will rule in favor of the civil rights of customers at a single business. That will be a weird day, indeed.

Racing Awards, Medals and Customized Gear for Runners

Running, whether it be a 5k with the family, a 10k for an extra challenge, or a marathon for the elite runners, can be a very exciting and memorable experience. Running is a very personal sport to lots of people, as it can be great exercise and can make you look and feel very refreshed. Tons of awards are given out to winners at races each year. For people organizing these racing events, finding customized and personal running gear can be difficult, as well as finding unique prizes for running champions. When orchestrating a race, you want to have a memorable competition. Medals and unique prizes can help to make the race more exciting. Participants can keep prizes as souvenirs, and remember the experience better because of a keepsake.
The most important souvenir a competitor can take home is a winning medal. Those are worn with pride, and showed to family members and friends. They are often hung on walls, or shown off where they can be seen. Of course, medals need to be personalized, unique, and specific. You cannot award a running champion with a medal that doesn’t recognize what it’s for. It is often a perfect idea to find a company that will provide you with customized prizes for winners. Often, you can ask for customized medals that include the date, the name of the race, and the name of the company sponsoring and orchestrating the event. That way, when people proudly show their winning medal to others, the people who made the event happen will receive the credit and publicity they deserve.

In addition to medals, running apparel and gear can be a great way to make the race more memorable. Unlike medals, gear is commonly worn and would be used often. Passing out swag, such as customized shirts, jackets, hats, and bags can be a great way to add to the excitement of the race. Races with their own gear are viewed as more unique, as they have customized logos and attractive designs. Shirts can be given out to families, and jackets can be sold at the finish line. Hats can be passed out before the race to keep the sun out of the athlete’s eyes. And, of course, bags can be kept forever and used for multiple occasions. Having the name and date of your race on these items can help to increase publicity and help the runners remember what a successful and memorable race it was. Customizing these mementos can help to define a great race, and will definitely help a race to be more exciting and enjoyable.

Why Is the Don’t Pass Bet Better than the Pass Bet in Craps?

This question has a simple answer. The don’t pass bet has a lower house advantage than the pass bet. If you’re comparing craps wagers by how likely they are to pay off, don’t pass bets are technically better than pass line bets.

Look at the house edge on various bets in craps. Poke around on that site long enough and you’ll see that the house edge on pass line bets is around 1.41%, while don’t pass bets give the casino a 1.36% edge.

Pass Bet Details
Pass is the fundamental wager in the game of craps. Bettors who place a Pass bet are hoping that the shooter will roll a 7 or 11 on the come out roll. Otherwise, if the shooter rolls a 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10, a point is established and play continues. Once that point is set, pass bettors are hoping that number will appear again before a 7. The worst possible result for pass bettors is a 2, 3, or 12 – when this number appears on the come out roll, everyone who bets with the shooter is a loser.

Don’t Pass Bet Details
Don’t pass bets are the opposite of pass bets. Don’t pass bettors are hoping the shooter rolls a 2, 3, or 12 on the come-out roll. If that doesn’t happen, don’t pass bettors are hoping that a 7 appears before the established point.

Understand that both of these wagers pay even money. Since they pay the same, but one has better odds than the other, you must be thinking: why do people place pass line bets at all?

Three important twists to the way the game is played explain why.

Right vs. Wrong Craps Bets
Spend any time reading up on craps and you’ll come across these phrases – “right bettors” and “wrong bettors.” Understand that don’t pass bets are literally the opposite of pass line bets. Betting on the pass line means betting WITH the shooter, while laying don’t pass bets means betting AGAINST the shooter.

Gamblers who bet with the shooter are called “right” bettors, while those lay wagers against the shooter are called “wrong” bettors. Believe it or not, a lot of people prefer to bet with the shooter (even at a slight disadvantage) than bet on the wrong side.

A don’t pass bet is a bet that the shooter will “seven out” before the point number reappears. Peer pressure and gambling tradition imply that you’d be better off betting with the shooter. It’s a stroke of genius on the part of casinos, because they’re gently pressuring customers to take less-advantageous bets.

“Betting to Lose”
Another reason commonly cited in discussions about pass vs. don’t pass bets – the idea that people don’t like “betting to lose.” What’s that mean?

Imagine the game of craps if everybody switched over to better don’t pass. The dice would be switching hands back and forth – losing would be the same as winning used to be. Wrong bettors are ignoring the appeal of the hot shooter, which is by far one of the most exhilarating things you can see on the casino floor. Once a shooter “gets hot,” customers start increasing their bets, the money starts flowing, and a crowd forms. People who wager on the don’t pass line are cut out of that excitement altogether. If “don’t pass” became the new “pass,” the game itself would change fundamentally.

Low Difference in House Edge
Let’s be honest – the difference in edge between don’t pass and pass is very small. Craps appeals to a certain kind of bettor, one that is not likely to get all that excited about an additional 0.5% advantage. Sports bettors and blackjack players? Absolutely. Craps players? They’re not really known for their ability to slow down and calculate.

The fact that the difference in the casino’s advantage is so low is no doubt another factor in the popularity of the pass line. Let’s say you’re betting $5 per round and seeing 100 outcomes an hour. If you place only pass line bets, your expected losses are around $7 an hour. If you place only don’t pass bets, your expected losses are $6.80 an hour. To most people, betting with the shooter is totally worth that extra $0.20 an hour, just to protect them from the scorn of the rest of the table.

Those are all pretty powerful reasons to avoid don’t pass bets. But the fact remains – most people simply don’t want to bet against the shooter.

And now for a little extra wisdom – there’s nothing at all wrong with betting against the shooter. No casino employee will tell you that you can’t bet the “wrong way.” No dealer will kick you out of the game, and no other players are allowed to do anything to you just because you’re betting against them. What they can do is make your life a bit miserable – give you the cold shoulder, etc.

This is why you’ll often see wrong bettors sitting off to themselves away from the crowd betting with the shooter. All they’re really doing is taking the better bet – the one with the better chances of winning. But the culture of the game is such that a “wrong” bettor is likely to get a little guff from the rest of the table.