Casinos Going Up in Smoke

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According to an actual news report (that would be more credible if it weren’t from a Chicago newspaper), gambling at Illinois casinos is down more than 20%. This is being attributed to the recent passage of a law that banned cigarette smoking at all public buildings, state-wide.

This came as no surprise to me.

My experience with casinos is limited, but wonderfully anecdotal. The first time I ever actually entered a casino was about 10 years ago in Cripple Creek, CO. I had seen casinos on TV and movies (most notably “Vegas” with Robert Urich) and had been led to believe they were fun places to go.

Actually entering a casino put the lie to that notion. See, I walked through every casino in Cripple Creek looking for one thing in particular: a gambler who looked like he (or she) were having fun. I never found one. Most everyone I could find playing the machines and the tables looked like they were also going through a proctology exam and the rest looked REALLY unhappy.

I later went to every casino in the Black Hawk/Central City area in search of someone, anyone, who was gambling and having a good time. I couldn’t even find anyone (other than workers, who appeared to be faking it) smiling.

Why were they there? I wondered.

The answer was actually made very obvious by the fact that, in most of the casinos, I couldn’t see the far walls for the smoke. I knew I had my answer (for most of the people there) as Black Hawk and Central City were the closest places to Denver where one could smoke indoors other than (for now) their homes. When that thought occurred to me, I looked again and realized that about 60% of the people I could see in the casinos weren’t actually gambling, they were sitting in front of machines and smoking, once in a while putting in a bit of money so as to be allowed to keep their seats.

Oklahoma casinos don’t have this problem because their casinos are also Indian smoke shops.

So I’m not a bit surprised that Illinois’ casino business went down twenty percent when they outlawed smoking. This is no more surprising than a state discovering that their Dairy Queen revenue tanked after outlawing ice cream. Smoking is to gambling as whining is to an OU head football coach.