Harrah's: Slots down 20 percent since smoking ban

Harrah's: Slots down 20 percent since smoking ban

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Harrah's says it saw a 20 percent decrease in slot machine revenue since the smoking ban went into effect two weeks ago, but casino executives argue that's not the only reason they want to cut one-sixth of their workforce.

"You've got to be here to know what the operations for casinos look like, and our decisions are based on our business and no one else's," Harrah's casino spokesperson Jade Russell said.

On Tuesday, Harrah's asked state lawmakers to cut its set number of employees from 2,400 to 2,000. A committee heard arguments on Senate Bill 236 that would allow the reduction. The casino says it is asking for the cuts because of loss in revenue over the years and not just the smoking ban.

"This is nothing different from what other riverboat casinos across the state have done. Many of their employment goals have been reduced because just of the nature of casinos," Russell said. "Was it a factor? Yes. Was it the factor? Absolutely not,"

Casino administrators say they want to reduce 400 positions by attrition, meaning when people leave their jobs, some of the positions will not be filled.

"I think that this is just another opportunity to tie it to the smoking ban. During the committee, I was present and [casino representatives] really just wanted to say this is the straw that breaks the camel's back," Louisiana Director of the American Heart Association Stasha Rhodes said.

Rhodes believes the cuts are directly related to the smoking ban. She said casino executives are using it as an excuse to cut their workforce and make more money with less payroll.

"It's really unfortunate that Harrah's is using the smoke-free law as an excuse to do something that they've been wanting to do since 2007," Rhodes said. "I think it's another way to detract from the fact that the smoke-free law was implemented to help employees."

Casino executives say smoking ban or not, they are not betting against the odds and point to their recent bottom line as to why.

"We've already seen and experienced losses so far," Russell said.

Russell said since 2001, the casino has had the set number of employees at 2,400.

Lawmakers delayed SB 236 Tuesday. There is no timetable on when the measure will be brought up in committee again.

Copyright 2015 WVUE. All rights reserved.