Charitable Gaming, Businesses Still Hurt from Smoking Ban
Monday marked the fifth anniversary of Minnesota's smoking ban and health advocates celebrated a drop in heart attacks, second hand smoke and smokers. But some bars are still trying to recover from a drop in business.
According to the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association, about 500 bars closed shortly after the ban went into effect. There are now 250 to 300 fewer licenses for on premise liquor sales than there were before the ban. Some of those licenses were inside service organizations.
"Legions, VFW's, the Elk, the Moose, these are fraternal organizations and I think everyone smoked. And when they shot down smoking it in included them as well and they just folded," said Frank Ball, Executive Director of the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association.
Organizations that rely on charitable gaming at bars to raise money have also felt the decline. According to statistics from Minnesota's Gambling Control Board, gaming receipts dropped nearly 10 percent in 2008, the year after the smoking ban. Over the last ten years charitable gaming has gone from over $1.4 billion to under $990 million.
"Our gambling manager has said things have to pick up because we're just barely making our responsible amount that we have to give to charity each month," said Barb Ranum, who vends pull-tabs at American Legion Post 435 in Richfield.
The drop has also been linked to the recession and harsher DWI laws. Some in the industry hope the new electronic pull-tabs will help bring gamblers back.
"Many of the bars, I think if they could back to smoking, I think they would probably like not to. They are clean, they smell good. And their cleaning costs are down considerably," Ball said.