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Shreveport City Council Postpones Vote On Casino Smoking Exemption

Courtesy: NPR / Getty Images

SHREVEPORT SMOKING BAN & BOND ISSUE -  The Shreveport City Council meeting yesterday afternoon was jam-packed as dozens of residents attended to hear and voice their views concerning one particular agenda item – whether or not to grant Shreveport Casinos an exemption from the Smoke Free Air Act Ordinance No. 51, scheduled to go in effect in August.   The city-wide smoking ban  was originally approved by the city council in July 2020 and was initially set to go into effect the following month, but was delayed a year over concerns about how implementation might affect businesses and employment.    The ordinance bans smoking from all workplaces including bars, and casinos in Shreveport. Casino operators  say the ban would hurt their business and effect the local economy.  Proponents for the ban say smoking puts the health and safety of hospitality workers at risk.   The discussion and public comments took more than two hours as several people spoke before the city council mostly in favor of the ban.   One of those speakers was Randy Hayden, with Smoke-Free Louisiana, who said  casino business in other  smoke-free markets   hasn’t declined at all. 

Credit Courtesy: City of Shreveport Council Video
Randy Hayden, consultant for Smoke Free Louisiana

"It hasn't happened on the Gulf Coast where there's smoke-free, it hasn't happened to the most competitive two miles of gaming in America: Park MGM on the strip that's smoke-free," Hayden explained.  "And it hasn't happened New Orleans, Louisiana that competes right across the line in Jefferson parish."

During discussion,  Councilman John Nickelson wanted council members to understand the long-reaching health effects of their vote.

"Cigarette smoke kills 480,000 people a year in the United States, it is a fact that second-hand smoke kills 41,000 people a year in this country," Nickelson explained. "We know those things to be true. So we know if we rescind this smoking ban, we are choosing casino profits over the lives and health of the people we swore to represent."

"So we know if we rescind this smoking ban, we are choosing casino profits over the lives and health of the people we swore to represent." Shreveport City Councilman John Nickelson, District C
Credit Courtesy: City of Shreveport Website
John Nickelson, Councilman District C / City of Shreveport, LA

However, the City Council's decision came to the wire leaning in favor of the exemption,  but  due to some confusion expressed by city council members as there motions  made and then withdrawn,   the council voted to table the decision for reconsideration for two weeks.  The sticking point appears to be casino operations in neighboring Bossier City where smoking  there is still allowed.  Some council members are concerned of losing casino business to Bossier and have reached out to the new city Mayor Tommy Chandler to see if he would address smoking in Casinos in his city.

In other business  the  Shreveport  City Council did unanimously approve  a bond vote.  The $236 million bond proposal presented by Mayor Adrian Perkins  will include five propositions highlighting critical needs in the city that include  public Safety,  technology,  water/sewer/drainage, streets,   and  parks and recreation.