Smoking ban causes Ill. layoffs

February 12, 2008 6:33 AM
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The concern over the no-smoking ban on Illinois riverboat casinos grew over the weekend with the announcement that some 30 workers were laid off at the Metropolis casinos owned by Harrah’s Entertainment.

Casino officials laid the blame directly on the smoking ban, saying customers were spending less time on entertainment and making fewer trips to the property.

 However, General Manager Mike Rich did acknowledge that the slowing economy also could be a factor in the declining business.

 This was the first casino to reduce its work force even though the Illinois Gaming Board reported that the state’s casinos had experienced a 17% revenue decline in January when compared to the revenue level of 2007.

 Officials said that by forcing casino customers to leave the property and go outdoors to smoke resulted in their spending less time at the gaming tables and slot machines.

"The less time people gamble, the more it has an effect on revenues," said Tom Swoik of the Illinois Casino Gaming Association.

Still, officials were not looking to make any immediate changes.

"I think we’re probably going to have to wait to really see what’s happening there," said State Rep. Mike Boland.