Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Taxpayers League weighs in on smoking bans -- Bloomington bingo hall closes

Posted by Craig Westover | 3:34 PM |  

Smoking Bans Not So Charitable
Business and Charities Getting Killed by Smoking Bans

PLYMOUTH—There’s nothing like a dose of reality to wake people up.

At least that’s what David Strom, President of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota hopes will happen once people see what has actually happened to charitable gambing receipts following the imposition of smoking bans in Hennepin and Ramsey Counties.

At a hearing held in St Paul today by the House State Government Finance Committee, legislators heard from the Gambling Control Board and others that Charitable Gambling receipts have fallen drastically in Hennepin and Ramsey County since the imposition of strict smoking bans.

In Hennepin County, which has a very strict smoking ban that covers bars and restaurants, there has been a 22% loss in gross receipts; in Ramsey County, where the ban is less strict, sales are down 10%. Overall, charitable gambling receipts are down only 2-3%, indicating that the problem is localized to the regions where smoking bans are driving customers away.

“These smoking bans are killing businesses,” said David Strom. “The loss of charitable gambling receipts is simply a symptom of the larger loss of customers that businesses are experiencing. Either customers are staying away or taking their business to a more friendly environment.”

“The anti-smoking activists swore up and down that business would be as good or better once the smoking bans were in place. Will they now admit that they were wrong?

“More likely, they will see this as an argument for expanding smoking bans everywhere—make everyone suffer the same fate, instead of just a few. Instead, let’s make the smoking ban activists accountable for their false predictions and at least repeal these onerous regulations,” Strom concluded.

Don't count on it, David.

Like the aggregate statistics that smoking ban proponents use to “prove’ there is no business repercussions from bans, charitable gambling numbers also camouflage some facts, but in the latter case, it makes the situation worse for bar owners.

Proponents of smoking bans like to cite statistics like total tax revenues for the hospitality industry as a whole. Using a large-scale aggregate figure like that hides the fact that specific types of bars and restaurants -- neighborhood bars in working-class neighborhoods -- suffer disproportionately because of smoking bans than do upscale bars and restaurants.

Likewise charitable gambling is not equally distributed across the hospitality industry. You don’t find pull tabs in Perkins or Ruth Crisp’s. Charitable gambling is just one of the activities that provides the atmosphere in neighborhood taverns. The magnitude of the charitable gambling losses is yet another indictor that smoking bans are hitting some segments of the hospitality industry harder than others.

Jim Algeo, president of the Bloomington Crime Prevention Association and a council candidate in Bloomington passes along this note on the same theme -- another business catering to blue-collar working-class people closing, another drop in charitable contributions due to the smoking ban.

Southtown Bingo ceases operations

The Board of Directors of Bloomington Crime Prevention Association (BCPA) regret to announce they have determined that their charitable gambling facilities located at Southtown Bingo are no longer economically viable and therefore have made the difficult decision to cease all operations immediately and close the doors of Southtown Bingo.

BCPA has a long history of service to the citizens and agencies of Bloomington and their mission and continued operations should not be affected by this closure. We want to take this opportunity to thank all of our loyal bingo players for their patronage. We are especially thankful for the talented staff of Southtown Bingo that worked so diligently over these many years, enabling us to help provide funding for many of our favorite causes such as National Night Out, the Neighborhood Watch program, Bloomington Police Explorers, etc.

With the continued support of our members and volunteers, as well as our fund raisers such as the 'Book 'Em' project, BCPA will continue to serve and fund the needs of our public safety minded citizens, organizations and agencies.