New Orleans Stands By Smoking Ban In Gambling Halls

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The New Orleans City Council has refused a request from Harrah's Casino to delay the April 22 implementation of a smoking ban in bars and gambling halls.

         The New Orleans Advocate’s Jaquetta White reports the casino wanted the delay so it could have more time to prepare the building and customers for the change.

         The casino had failed earlier to have itself carved out of the new law altogether.

         The ban prohibits smoking cigarettes and electronic cigarettes inside casinos and bars, with the exception of already existing cigar and hookah bars.

         Lawyers for Harrah's New Orleans, a large land-based casino next to the French Quarter, have predicted a 20 percent decline in revenues from a ban. They said that could cost the city $500,000 in sales taxes and slash by half the $3.6 million the city gets from the state each year under the law allowing the casino to operate.

         The company also has said it might seek to reduce its payments to the city by between $3.5 million and $13.5 million a year.

         "What we're asking you all today, respectfully, is an opportunity to understand really how this impacts one of the largest businesses in the city of New Orleans, both fiscally as well as physically," Harrah's attorney Jade Russell said Thursday.

         Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, who sponsored the smoke-free ordinance, said the casino was providing an unsafe work environment for its employees because of secondhand smoke.

         "This city will continue to be supportive of Harrah's casino in every way possible, but it has to be as it relates to a safe work environment for all people who deserve it," Cantrell.

         The council did some minor housekeeping on the smoking law Thursday, including clarifying that only cigars can be smoked in cigar bars and only hookah pipes can be smoked in hookah bars.

         Another amendment made clear that the Fair Grounds casino is included in the ban.

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