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Up in smoke?

Written by Bill Toland on .

In a slow week for casino news, we're left to talk about Thursday's statewide smoking ban, and whether it will hurt business at Pennsylvania's casinos, where the cigarette haze is as much a part of the decor as the drapes or the tight-shirted waitresses. Will the chain smokers take their business elsewhere? Will they walk the 25 feet to the nearest smoking section?

Or will they drive to Atlantic City?

Thing is, Atlantic City's smoking ban is set to take effect, too -- next month, in fact, and whatever Pennsylvania gamblers might be lost for the month of September might be regained in October:

"The state of Pennsylvania could be the beneficiary of the smoking laws in New Jersey. They, too, have a smoking ban law that is going into effect in less then two weeks. They have excluded certain areas of a casino floor from the ban, however ... Pennsylvania casinos could see a large jump in business in October. That is when the smoking laws go into effect in Atlantic City."

The smoking ban at Pennsylvania's casinos is fairly lax -- up to 25 percent of the casino floor can be used as the "smoking section," and if casinos can prove a hardship caused by the smoking ban, that percentage could increase to 50 percent. Atlantic City, meanwhile, has an all-out ban.

... Remember the resort casinos, the mini-casinos with up to 500 slot machines each? Western Pennsylvania was in line to get two of them -- Seven Springs and Nemacolin. But both of those outfits pulled out of the running in 2006, opening the competition to new applicants. Those three applicants (for only two licenses) will be vetted at hearings next month, at the Pennsylvania State Museum in Harrisburg.:

-3 p.m., Oct. 22, for Valley Forge Convention Center Partners, L.P., near Philadelphia.

-1:30 p.m., Oct. 23, Vacation Charters, Ltd., (The Resort at Split Rock) in Carbon County.

-3:30 p.m., Oct. 23, Bushkill Group, Inc. (Fernwood Hotel & Resort) in Monroe County.

... oh, and the photo is somewhat relevant:

"Fallsview Casino Resort announced today that Cheech and Chong - one of the most popular comedy duos of the 1970s and 1980s - will bring their Light Up Canada tour to Fallsview as part of the resort's autumn line-up. The reunited Richard 'Cheech' Marin and Tommy Chong will perform one show only in Fallsview's Avalon Theatre on Thursday, Nov. 6, beginning at 8:30 p.m."

So mark your calendars I guess.

Dispatches from the east

Atlantic City is still reeling from what has been a lousy year, and the local newspaper says the bad economy has spun into a bad customer service experience for casino visitors, which exacerbates things:

"The casinos have cut back on pit bosses, floor persons and full-time employees. Pit bosses are overworked, supervising too many gaming pits. Floor persons have to watch up to six table games. The effect is worse customer service. The slot departments have also been reduced. Customers have to search for attendants for service and often ask dealers that are going on break to help them. Maybe customers are frustrated and are going to places that provide better customer service. As the casinos reduce the number of front-line workers, customer service suffers."

That, and you won't be able to smoke there come October.

... Not drawing enough gamblers? Build more casinos!

"In an effort to survive withering competition from Pennsylvania and New York slots parlors, Atlantic City is considering expanding casino gambling into areas that were never envisioned when gambling was approved here in the 1970s. The City Council last week approved changes to its master plan that will rezone parts of Route 30 to allow construction of a casino on the site of a former oil depot. About a mile from the Boardwalk and only slightly closer than that to the three marina district casinos, the proposed gambling hall would be built by Penn National Gaming in an area currently known best for traffic jams and sewage odors."

You won't smell like cigarette smoke anymore ... but you may smell like raw sewage.

... In Philadelphia, they're still discussing where the casinos will be built:

"The potential relocation of at least one proposed riverfront casino has set off serious real-estate speculation and more than a little community concern about where the project might go next. Foxwoods, which received a license from the state in December 2006 to build a casino on Columbus Boulevard at Reed Street, agreed last month to consider moving after 20 months of delays brought on by a resistant city government and community opposition. So where could Foxwoods go? Could the former Budd Co. site in Nicetown, where Donald Trump was rejected for a casino license by the state Gaming Control Board, be back in play? What about the Wachovia Spectrum in South Philly, which will be torn down for a massive, multi-use entertainment complex? Or Center City?"

The Budd Co. site tops the rumor list, says the Philadelphia Daily News.

Dispatches from the west

Could Ohio get an Indian casino?

"Monroe City officials plan to resume negotiations with the Eastern Shawnee tribe on a new revenue sharing agreement before the end of year for a proposed $300 million to $350 million casino complex ... The tribe previously was considering a site for a casino at Monroe's Corridor 75 Park, a site southeast of Interstate 75 and Ohio 63, but the Eastern Shawnee and the property owners of the park did not renew the option for the purchase of the land at the site."

Monroe is 30 miles north of Cincinnati.  

Odds and ends

Detroit's Motor City Casino gets a facelift ... Harra's begins planning its casino in Kansas ... Tropicana Entertainment wants to regain control of its former Atlantic City casino ... An Indian tribe strikes out in the Bay State

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