Harrah's blames revenue loss on smoking ban, others disagree

Harrah's blames revenue loss on smoking ban, others disagree

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Harrah's is blaming its recent money woes on New Orleans' smoking ordinance, but some are quick to say there's other reasons for the decline.

"This is something that we talked about leading up to the passage of the ordinance and even in the aftermath in the implementation of the ordinance, this is very consistent to what was predicted," Harrah's spokesperson Jade Russell.

Monday, the Louisiana Gaming Control Board released casinos' revenue for May.

Harrah's is down 16 percent, or $4.6 million, from May 2014 and down five percent or $1.3 million from April 2015.

Other casinos nearby without a smoking ban, such as Treasure Chest and BoomTown N.O., saw revenues increase.

Treasure Chest is up five percent or $450,000 from last year and six percent or $550,000 from April 2015.

BoomTown saw numbers jump 10 percent or $1 million from last year and April 2015.

"We can only attribute it to the smoking ban," Russell said.

Smoker and gambler Ronald Porche used to play at Harrah's but now refuses to go back because of the smoking ban.

"(There's) more people at the treasure chest," Porche said. "Because we can do what we want."

But smoke-free advocates and non-smoking gamblers believe Harrah's is jumping the gun saying the ban is the only outside factor to the casino's revenue decline.

"I would go to support the non-smoking but I don't go down there because of the crime," non-smoking gambler Diane Hauck said. "I believe there is a lot of crime down in New Orleans and that's why we don't go."

"It's too premature to come to that conclusion that the revenue loss is because of the smoke free ordinance," Louisiana Public Health Institute Assistant Director Tonia Moore said.

She points out May is historically a slower month for Harrah's and believes the ban needs to be put in place for longer to make a decision.

"As a public health organization, we would like to look at a year's trend to really determine if indeed the smoke free ordinance is really the decline in their revenues," Moore said.

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