Biloxi Suspends Smoking Ban Implementation

On December 27th, 2008, what is advisable for Gulfport may not function well in Biloxi, where the city’s 8 casino facilities could take a hit from the ongoing smoking ban. Biloxi considered implementing a smoking ban this year but the proposal did not prosper because of lack of support from the council. Talk of imposing a statewide smoking ban dominated the agenda when the Mississippi House Gaming Committee convened in Biloxi on December 17th, 2008.

Representative John Mayo, a Democrat from Clarksdale stated that he will introduce the legislation in the opening of the new house session. The smoking ban did not prosper in the committee for the past 7 years and he does not see it being approved this year either. Representative George Flaggs Jr., a Democrat from Jackson, voted to improve taxes on cigarettes to help Medicaid but said could not vote to block cigarette smoking in casino facilities.

Flaggs said that the house should be careful on their decision because it could have an immense effect on the economy. He added that if the casino facilities needed to block smoking, the customers will decide for themselves. A recent study commissioned by the Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau showed that the most preferred brand new tourism product to be a smoke free casino facility, with forty-two percent of those responding placing at the top of their list, above a dinner cruise and oceanarium.

Casino operators, though, can say that a smoking ban could hurt their business. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has just released a report showing gaming machines place in smoking sections earned sixty to 120% more, depending on the casino facility. Casino facilities in Atlantic City, Colorado and Illinois stated that they have lost millions of dollars due to smoking bans. Earline Cuave, the health initiatives representative for the American Cancer Society said that the casino facilities have really helped in the development of their economy and they do not want anything that will affects its productivity.

But she said that casino facilities have workers and customers who come down with cancer and she firmly believes that players are not going to stop playing because they cannot smoke. The president of the Peoples Bank in Biloxi, Chevis Swetman said that the state should not add any more additional regulations during a slow and weak economy. Swetman said that the state will not be able to fully regulate tribal casino facilities, which will give them an unreasonable advantage.

He said that if the smoking ban passes, it could mean loss of jobs and reduced sales tax, income tax and casino tax profits aside from the loss of health insurance for casino employees. Swetman said that it could also affect future casino plans. He added that corporate investors usually gravitate to the place with the least number of regulations that allow them to earn a lot of profits.