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.

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.

Gambling Games that Are Really Worth Trying

New gambling games are introduced on an almost daily basis in casinos around the world.

Most of these new games are slot machines, but video poker variations and other types of games are being developed also.

Here’s a quick overview of some of the newest games you should try the next time you have a chance.

Game Star Video Poker from IGT
The Game Star is a video poker machine from IGT that has 7 new games in one cabinet. You choose which game you want to play when you sit down and single hand and multi hand options are available.

Here’s a list of the seven video poker games you can play:

Stud Choice Poker
Dual Action Poker
Flush Fever Poker
Extreme X Poker
Lucky Quads Wheel poker
Look Ahead Poker
Super Look Ahead Poker
In Stud Choice Poker you get to pick from two hands and then play five, six, or seven card stud. The 5 card stud pay table is better than the 6 card, etc. When the game starts you pick between two different two card hands, and then pick the pay table you want to use. Then the rest of the cards are dealt and the hand is completed.

When you play Dual Action Poker you play a single hand of poker and can win on two different pay tables. Your best hands will be paid from both pay tables.

Flush Fever Poker has a feature where any hand resulting in four to a flush automatically redraws for an extra chance to hit. If you land four to a flush in the bonus game the hand redraws until you hit a flush for a guaranteed win.

Any time you hit a full house or better while playing Extreme X Poker you unlock the fever games and a multiplier.

Lucky Quads Poker awards a special spin of the wheel for any four of a kind or five of a kind hand.

Look Ahead Poker is a neat concept that I’m surprised took this long to find its way into a video poker game. When you bet the maximum coins you can see the next card to be dealt. This adds an interesting strategy decision to the game.

Super Look Ahead plays the same as Look Ahead Poker except you can burn the next card in the deck if you don’t like it.

Peek & Play Poker from IGT
The Peek & Play video poker game from IGT is designed to give players a greater feeling of being in control and being able to alter the outcome of the game through strategy.

While playing Peek & Play you can pay a fee, called a buy a pay feature, to peek at the next card in the deck.

The game is loosely based on the popular Jacks or Better game with the minimum paying hands being jacks or better and two pair, each paying 5 coins for a 5 coin wager. The top payout is 4,000 coins for a royal flush.

New Bally Slot Machines
Bally is one of the biggest slot machine manufacturers in the world and they keep putting out great new games. Here’s a list of some of their new slots games with a little bit of information about each.

I’m not a big slots player but I like to see the new games and designs that slots companies come up with. They need to keep designing bigger and better games to keep players interested and coming back for more.

Betty Boop’s 5th Avenue – A 5 reel 30 pay line slot machine using the popular Cash Wheel Bonus system. The game has a shopping theme and has three different jackpot possibilities.

Cash Wheel Black and White – Cash Wheel Black and White has 5 reels and 25 pay lines. This slot machine has a bonus game where you can win up to three free spins on the bonus wheel and a free games feature that gives you 12 free spins.

Dragon Spin – This machine has five reels and 30 pay lines along with five progressive jackpots and three different free game special features.

NASCAR – Cashing in on the popularity of the racing league, NASCAR features the U-Spin wheel, three bonus features, a choice of the best drivers on the circuit, five reels, and 30 pay lines.

Blazing 777 Triple X – Blazing 7’s is a throwback to the simple times in the slot machine industry. With only three pay lines and three reels this is my kind of machine. But instead of just being a plain Jane machine, it has a progressive jackpot and random multipliers of up to 5 times.

Diamonds of Dublin – The Diamonds of Dublin slot machine has three reels and a fancy green theme with shamrocks and diamonds everywhere. It has a set jackpot and the shamrock acts as a wild symbol.

Garden of Amazon – With 25 pay lines and five reels, the Garden of Amazon slot machine may sound like lots of other games but it features a free spins bonus game that can be retriggered, three different jackpots, and a 20 times multiplier bonus.

Quick Hit Wild Blue Free Games Fever – The Quick Hit Wild Blue slots game has a ton of special features. Players can unlock 10 free spins that can include two or three times multipliers and locking wild symbols. The game also has five different jackpot levels and scatter symbols.

Dollar Streak – Dollar Streak slots has five reels and 20 pay lines. This slot machine has two different progressive jackpots, great graphics, and a free games feature.

Mustang Money 2 – Including a major and minor progressive jackpot along with a 10 free spins feature and Mustang Money wild reels, the five reel 10 pay line slots game offers amazing graphics and smooth game play.

Conclusion
Even though casinos have lots of traditional games like blackjack and roulette, take a few minutes to check out the new games every once in a while. After all, the first time you played blackjack it was new to you. How will you ever find a new favorite game if you don’t see what’s available?