Cigarette smoke rises from an ashtray. (Stock photo by Wes Muller/La. Illuminator)
Gov. John Bel Edwards is open to the idea of temporarily banning smoking in Louisiana casinos and video poker outlets in order to protect against COVID-19 spread, though the governor still has to talk to state gambling regulators about such a move.
“First impression, it seems to make some sense,” Edwards said about a temporary smoking ban at a press conference Thursday afternoon.
Louisiana’s 16 casinos and nearly 200 truck-stop video poker outlets are currently open at 50 percent building capacity, with the ability to fill up to 75 percent of the space’s gambling seats. Most allow smoking, as long as they are located in parishes and cities where a smoking ban doesn’t apply to them.
“In order to smoke, you obviously have to take your mask on and off. So that is something that I will give some consideration to,” Edwards said.
Health experts worry that removing masks to smoke in a gambling establishment might contribute to the spread of COVID-19. Gambling spaces are in enclosed areas, and the virus can spread quickly indoors where people don’t have their noses and mouths covered.
Michigan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have already enacted temporary bans on smoking in their casinos in order to combat the coronavirus pandemic. New Jersey has also banned drinking in casinos for the same reason.
Louisiana only allows indoor smoking in three public places: casinos, video poker outlets and bars. Edwards has shut down bars to in-person drink service, making it almost a moot point in those businesses.
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