How Will the Smoking Ban Affect New Orleans Casinos?

The city of New Orleans implemented a full ban on smoking in bars, restaurants, casinos, and other public spaces in April of 2014.

The purpose of the law was to extend existing statewide smoking bans within the city limits. The new law means it is illegal to smoke within five feet of everything from public parks to colleges and even the city’s jails and prisons.

The use of e-cigarettes and vaporizers is also considered smoking. So that’s banned too.

How do the operators of gambling venues in New Orleans feel about it?

They’re upset.

The Louisiana State Police, which oversees gambling in Louisiana, predicted that the state could lose $104 million in tax revenue and fees from the implementation of this ban. That number came from the Gaming Enforcement Commission’s notes on a study done on smoking bans in Atlantic City and Delaware gaming properties.

That study, which you can read as a PDF file here, accurately predicted a 12% decrease in revenue for the state of Delaware after a smoking ban in gambling halls in that state. Another arm of that study predicted a huge decrease of 20% in Atlantic City’s profits across a two-year period after a smoking ban in South Jersey, though that prediction hasn’t been tested yet.

Their argument is simple enough. As the New Orleans advocate puts it, “[Casinos, restaurants, and bars] argue that tourists come to New Orleans because they like to gamble and drink. The city is one of the last to allow smoking in some public places.” To take that away will change people’s attitude about New Orleans.

How many will simply decide not to come back?

What have they done about it?

Opponents of the ban have been active.

First, Harrah’s tried to delay the ban, claiming they needed more time to help their employees and customers adjust to the new rules. New Orleans City Council saw through that smokescreen (pun totally intended), shaming Harrah’s for trying to amend city law to benefit their own interests. For their part, Harrah’s is currently involving New Orleans in a difficult and costly lease renegotiation which has to be seen as an attempt at revenge on the part of the casino.

What Harrah’s did next was brilliant. Before the ban went into effect, the property made a huge show of becoming “the first smoke-free casino in Louisiana.” At midnight two days before the ban went into effect, they ceremonially removed ashtrays, handed out lollipops for frustrated smokers, and made a big to-do of their early adoption.

It was a brilliant move because they were planning a counter-attack the entire time.

Next, Harrah’s joined forces with many other local businesses affected by the ban and filed a lawsuit in civil court to strike it down. This action was more effective. It included several large local businesses (including Pat O Brien’s, Broussard’s, and several other New Orleans landmarks) and focused on the potential loss of revenue facing the city.

The hearing was scheduled for May 21. That lease negotiation Harrah’s is forcing on the city? It could cost New Orleans anywhere from $4 – $30 million dollars, which Harrah’s says is the cost of forcing the smoking ban on their successful gaming enterprise.

Who benefits from the New Orleans smoking ban?

I’m cynical, but not too cynical. This might smarmy, too.

I’m okay with that.

Here’s who benefits from the New Orleans smoking ban:

The people who visit bars, hotels, restaurants, casinos, and other public spaces all benefit.

We know secondhand smoke is dangerous. The American Cancer Society says secondhand smoke kills 42,000 people a year. It’s bad and you probably agree that it should be banned, unless you’re a libertarian or anarchist or something.

But beyond that – people these days don’t like to go places where smoking takes place. Times have changed – gone are the days when going home from your waitressing job smelling like a cigarette was no big deal because everybody smoked. These days, fewer people smoke, and the ones who don’t simply don’t want to be around it.

City Council Member Latoya Cantrell, who sponsored the law and has been vocal about her support for it, points out that secondhand smoke exposure costs the state millions of dollars a year in healthcare costs. That’s another angle to consider. It might be fiscally irresponsible to continue to allow smoking in public, at least according to the ban’s proponents.

So what’s going to happen?

Harrah’s is trying to put its money where its mouth is, threatening to shrink its state-mandated work force from 2,400 to 1,500. They’ve got legislation under consideration which would allow them to do just that.

With pressure on the city council from judges more than ready to rule in favor of existing liberties, it’s not totally clear that the city will be able to maintain the ban as it exists now.

Bartenders and business owners continue to make the same point – you’ll read it in this article from VICE and in this from the Guardian. What is going to happen when neighboring businesses get sick of the smokers pouring out of bars, casinos, and restaurants every few minutes? That seems to be the real threat to shop owners concerned about their customers getting up and leaving to satisfy their nicotine habit.

If I had to make a prediction, I’d say that the ban is here to stay. I can’t find a single example of a city getting rid of a smoking ban once it’s been put in place. It just doesn’t happen. As for how the city will be affected, I’d predict that Harrah’s is going to continue making a stink until they earn an exemption from the New Orleans City Council.

That means the city will rule in favor of the civil rights of customers at a single business. That will be a weird day, indeed.

Dota 2 Betting Predictions for StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5

StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 is a Dota Pro Circuit Minor, having a prize pool of $300,000 and awarding a total of 300 qualification points for The International 2018. The event is organized by StarLadder in association with ImbaTV, has eight participating teams and is scheduled to take place in Kiev (Ukraine, Eastern Europe) between April 12th and April 15th.

Teams, Tournament Format and Prize Distribution
StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 features eight teams from a total of six regions:

Europe: Team Kinguin.
CIS: FlyToMoon, Natus Vincere, Vega Squadron.
South America: SG e-sports.
North America: OpTic Gaming.
China: VGJ.Thunder.
Southeast Asia: Fnatic.
For the Group Stage, the teams will be split into two groups of four.
Group A

OpTic Gaming
VGJ.Thunder
FlyToMoon
Team Kinguin
Group B

Fnatic
Vega Squadron
Natus Vincere
SG e-sports
Both groups will be played in a double-elimination bracket format. The second and first placed teams from each group advance to the Playoffs. Here, the rank 1 from Group A plays against rank 2 from Group B and vice versa. Until the Grand Final (Bo5), every match is a Bo3 series.

Because it belongs to the Dota Pro Circuit, StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 offers 300 qualification points in addition to its prize pool. The money and the points will be distributed among the 8 teams in the following way:

1st place: $135,000; 150 points
2nd place: $60,000; 90 points
3rd – 4th place: $30,000; 30 points
5th – 6th place: $15,000; 0 points
7th – 8th place: $7,500; 0 points
Betting Predictions
VGJ.Thunder vs. FlyToMoon
VGJ.Thunder
VGJ.Thunder is sitting at number 8 in the Dota Pro Circuit rankings, having 1665 points. This is a very strong Chinese competitor and given that most of its usual opponents are missing from this event, it is likely that it will claim the title or at least qualify for the Grand Final. Overall, VGJ.Thunder has obtained two 2nd place finishes this season at Dota Pro Circuit LAN events. One of these tournaments was The Bucharest Major.

FlyToMoon
This team has been around for only two months and does not have a single notable result apart from some tournament qualifications. Even at this level of competition, which is considerably lower compared to that of Major tournaments, FlyToMoon has little to no chance of getting anything other than a 7th-8th place finish.

Prediction
This is a complete mismatch and will definitely end with a quick 2 – 0 victory in favor of VGJ.Thunder. Given that it’s a Bo3, there’s almost nothing that FlyToMoon can do to stop the Chinese juggernaut.
Bovada puts the odds for this match at -310 / +200 in favor of VGJ.Thunder, giving you spectacular returns for such a low-risk bet.

OpTic Gaming vs. Kinguin
OpTic Gaming
OpTic Gaming is the strongest team in North America, with the exception of Evil Geniuses. With more than 6 months of local and international experience, a great roster full of highly skilled individuals and a formidable captain (Peter “ppd” Dager, TI 5 champion with EG), OpTic Gaming is one of the main contenders at this event and should easily get a top 3 finish. I personally think they’re very likely to reach the Grand Final, but it remains to be seen.

Team Kinguin
Team Kinguin is a mediocre European squad with a few participations at Dota Pro Circuit events but no achievements so far. Given that StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 is a Minor event which for the most part, didn’t attract the interest of top teams, Team Kinguin might achieve a 5th-6th place result. But I don’t think they can climb higher than that.

Prediction
This might be a disputed match, but OpTic Gaming will almost certainly still be victorious in the end. Either a 2 – 0 or a 2 – 1 result in their favor is an extremely likely outcome for this encounter.

Bovada puts the odds for this match at -325 / +210 in favor of OpTic Gaming.

Vega Squadron vs. SG e-sports
Vega Squadron
Vega Squadron is a fairly strong team in the CIS region and in recent weeks has managed to beat tough opponents such as Team Empire, Natus Vincere and Team Spirit in the CIS qualifiers for various tournaments. The players on its roster aren’t very well known, but they’re all seasoned professionals and play reasonably well as a unit.

Vega Squadron has little chance of winning against top contenders like OpTic Gaming, Fnatic, and VGJ.Thunder, but has at least a 50% chance to emerge victorious against any other team. The most likely result for them at StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 is a 5th-6th place finish.

SG e-sports
No doubt, SG e-sports is one of the top South American teams. However, South America is by far the weakest region in Dota 2 of the 6 that are officially recognized, and the only one that doesn’t have a representative among the top 10 teams inside the Dota Pro Circuit rankings table. Like most of the other participants at this tournament, SG e-sports hasn’t had any notable results this season. And since the skill difference between South America and the other regions is so big, it’s likely that they will get either a 5th-6th or 7th-8th place finish at this event.

Prediction
Vega Squadron is slightly favored to win this match, but only by a little. So you should be cautious here and not take a huge risk.

Bovada puts the odds for this match at -175 / +120 in favor of Vega Squadron.

Fnatic vs. Natus Vincere
Fnatic
Fnatic desperately needs a title or at least a 2nd place finish at StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 if it wants to get back into top 8 in the Dota Pro Circuit rankings table and obtain a direct invite for The International 2018. Right now, it’s sitting at number 11 with 884 points, so this type of competition is a perfect opportunity for a great result because it lacks top opposition for the most part. In terms of strength, Fnatic is the second-best team at this event and will likely reach the Grand Final if it can defeat either OpTic Gaming or VGJ.Thunder in the Semifinals (depending on who it will face at that point).

One thing to take note of is that Fnatic will be playing with their coach Adam at this tournament and not with “pieliedie”. This decision might have a significant impact on their game.

Natus Vincere
Following the departure of RodjER and SoNNeikO, Natus Vincere went on a downward spiral and is now an underdog in most of the tournaments participates in. At the moment, this famous CIS team is sitting at number 10 in the Dota Pro Circuit rankings, having 1199 points. Just like Fnatic, Natus Vincere needs an excellent result at StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 if it wants to have a chance of getting a top 8 finish for the season and get a direct invite to The International 2018. Based on its recent performance, Na’Vi has little chance of getting more than a 3rd-4th place finishes at this event.

Prediction
Fnatic will be seeking revenge for its previous defeat against Na’Vi and will almost certainly going to get it. However, keep in mind that Fnatic will be playing with a substitute and this may affect their performance in a negative way.

Bovada puts the odds for this match at -250 / +170 in favor of Fnatic.

7 Things You Never Knew About Casinos

Americans love gambling. We spend billions of dollars every year at land-based casinos, from the high desert of Las Vegas to the riverboat casinos of the Mississippi Delta. Forty US states are home to at least one casino. Even conservative Texas has a casino within its borders.

The casino business has been booming for nearly 100 years. From its early days as a frontier distraction to the multi-billion dollar mega-businesses of today, casino gambling has enthralled Americans as long as it’s been available. But I bet you didn’t know all these cool facts about the casino business.

Read on for a fascinating look at how the betting industry really works.

1. Casinos lose money all the time
Sure, most players end up losing money. But you have to figure high cost of the property, staff, and complimentary items keep casinos from beating everyone. Of course those patrons who play very little or are accompanying real players make up a large portion of this group, but there are many players that are actually able to win over a long period of time. This group includes blackjack card counters, but the largest percentage is comprised of players who gamble just enough to qualify for freebies and complimentary giveaways like free rooms and meals.

2. They love winners
You might assume that the casino isn’t happy when someone cashes in a big jackpot. But that’s far from the truth. Think about it – do you want to play at a casino that never pays out big winnings or a casino that regularly advertises big prizes? Big wins are good for business, so don’t be surprised to see a bunch of smiles and glad-handing when the supervisor hands you a big progressive prize.

3. Card-counters are welcome … in Atlantic City
If you’re an advantage gambler of any type, you run the risk of getting kicked out of a casino in Las Vegas or most other parts of the country. Most casinos reserve the right to kick out anyone they suspect is counting cards or using other advantage techniques. But if you’re a card-counter and you want to use your skill freely, there is one place you’re welcome. Atlantic City is explicitly open to blackjack card-counters and other advantage bettors. How do they do it? They’ve adapted. For example, the rules for blackjack are altered to account for the impact of card counting tactics.

4. Think you’ve been ripped off? There’s an agency for that
Every legal casino in America is run by a regulatory agency. If you think you’ve been cheated, you can contact Gaming Control (or whatever agency runs the show where you were playing) and lodge a formal complaint. Just don’t use this service to whine about cold food or a broken elevator. Those particular complaints should be made to the casino’s manager, not to a government body meant to curtail casino cheating.

5. If you win big, you can ask for a check instead of cash or chips
This one surprised me – I’ve never seen it done before, and I’ve been in casinos plenty of times. Apparently, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for a check if you have a decent-sized win. Basically, any hand-pay you get in Vegas or AC can be turned into a check, so long as you ask nicely and do it before you get your cash or chip pay-out. You can even get a combination pay-out, part in a check, part in cash, and part in chips. Remember – your casino is basically a service economy with you as its target. If you play a lot and talk sweetly to the employees, you can get pretty much whatever you want, within reason.

6. You need a current and valid photo ID on you pretty much at all times
Though some US casinos allow players in at age 18 (particularly in Alaska), the gambling age in pretty much every other US state is 21. To enforce that, the casino demands that all players have a valid photo ID on them at all time while on the floor. Don’t even try the old “Oops, I left my ID up in my room” trick. The casino can (and will) ask you to leave if you don’t have your ID on you.

7. Casinos have strict etiquette rules – including language restrictions
Contrary to the stereotype of the casino as a den of iniquity, gambling halls actually have pretty lengthy lists of rules and proper etiquette that you must follow. The quickest way to get a nasty look from your dealer or even a warning from the pit is to open your mouth and let one of those famous “four-letter words” slip out. My advice – act like you’re playing craps with your grandmother. You’ll be better off, and the other bettors around you will appreciate your kindness.