Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Casino Queen's freezing smoking "lounges"

I visited the Casino Queen tonignt to check out the first day of the smoking ban. No one was smoking in the Queen and the air was a little cleaner, but not much. In the absence of smoke to clear, it was hard to tell if the air filtration system was turned on.

I visited the Queen's smoking lounge. I was astounded to step outside into a stark, partially enclosed space with a concrete floor, unheated except by two cheap electric heaters from Home Depot. One of the heaters already looked broken. It was a freezing space and the smokers there were miserable. One of the smokers suggested that the Queen could easily have made a comfortable, heated space in which patrons could smoke. Casino officials had plenty of time and resources to nicely take care of smoking patrons. But they didn't, the smoker suggested, because these officials don't want people to adjust. They are still looking for an exemption and don't want to accomodate the existing law. I agree, these freezing lounges with their joke heaters are a way of spitting on the Illinois law.

Another outdoor smoker in the "lounge" talked about how bad it was to be forced to give up a "lucky machine" in order to grab a smoke. Upon returning, the machine was often taken. He shivered.

Back in the casino, it seemed like a little more than half the machines were being used. A casino worker told me that a fire alarm a little earlier has dispersed a bigger crowd. The worker also said that "new faces" were showing up from St. Louis casinos and old patrons were abandoning the Queen for St. Louis boats. The real effect of this reshuffling of patronage will take a while to be assessed, the worker said.