The news from Atlantic City is grim as Casinos report record losses. So bad is the downturn that the Casino owners are blaming the smoking ban that they rolled over to support.

One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry as the Casino bosses sing the blues. Any smoker could (and did) predict that when New Jersey rushed to impose a statewide smoking ban the lucrative hospitality business in Atlantic City would take a big hit. The casino owners, although publicly opposing the smoking ban, made their peace with the anti-tobacco brigade, carving out a small exemption for themselves. That exemption, permitting smoking in 25 percent of the gaming area, is proving woefully inadequate in staunching smokers’ dollars flowing out of Atlantic City and New Jersey.

Following the pattern of failure set in California over a decade ago, businesses that are sensitive to smoking bans, barked about level playing fields. That discredited theory posits that once every business in a given location, such as a state, is prevented from catering to their smoking customers, smokers will adjust, get with the program and continue to spend their dollars in restaurants, bars and gambling joints at the same rate they spent when smoking was allowed. Not true, as the sad news from Atlantic City confirms.

The hard-bitten casino owners were bamboozled by smooth-talking anti-tobacco operatives who convinced them to take their puny exemption and regard it as an "edge’" that non-casino venues didn’t have. Divide and conquer works every time when the diverse factions of the hospitality business willfully violate the business sense they’ve cultivated and listen to people who do not and aren’t able to work in productive enterprises.

The casinos’ self-induced myopia can no longer obscure the hard fact that smokers do not go to Atlantic City merely to gamble in a small preserve, fenced off from the main casino floor. Smokers, like everyone else, want the total experience. They want to dine in restaurants and finish off a meal with a cigarette or cigar. They want to move around the vast casino property without seeing No Smoking signs. In short they do not want to put up with the bullshit that runs rampant in establishments that prefer kissing the rear end of Big Health rather than ensuring that a huge segment of their customer base is enjoying themselves.

This story focuses on how casino workers are losing their jobs. Such is the predictable result when business people, as well as the unions that supposedly exist to look out for workers, make deals with the devil and insanely expect their smoking customers to tow the line as they foolishly have. In the weeks leading up to the smoking ban casino worker after casino worker was quoted saying how thrilled they were that they would no longer have to be exposed to noxious smokers. Now they can enjoy their clean air at home while they pour through the want ads.

Although Las Vegas, the nation’s leading tourist trap, suffers under a smoking ban somewhat less severe than that in New Jersey, the dynamics that threaten to render Atlantic City into an economic basket case exist in Las Vegas. Smokers will not long linger in locations, no matter how glitzy and exciting, where having a smoke over a cup of coffee is forbidden. Las Vegas better wise up and ditch its smoking ban or it will find itself the subject of a bevy of sad stories such as this one from Atlantic City.

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