Smoke-free laws do not harm charitable bingo profits, study finds

By Wallace Ravven

A new economic analysis finds that smoke-free laws do not reduce profits from charitable bingo parlors, contrary to claims made by groups opposing smoking restrictions. The analysis follows other studies that have found no loss of business—and sometimes increased business—at restaurants and bars when smoke-free ordinances are put in place.

The new analysis is the first objective assessment of the effect of smoke-free policies on gaming profits. Researchers collected information on profits from state-licensed bingo and other charitable gaming from 220 towns and cities in Massachusetts that permitted such games from 1985 to 2001. The Massachusetts State Lottery Commission, which supervises these games, provided the raw data.

The analysis by researchers at UCSF showed that while bingo profits were falling over the entire period studied, this trend was well established before passage of smoke-free laws in the early 1990s, and was unaffected by these laws. The result held regardless of the size of the community.

The study is reported in the December 2003 issue of the journal Tobacco Control.

Authors are Stanton Glantz, PhD, professor of medicine at UCSF and director of the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education; and Rebecca Wilson-Loots, project assistant at the Center.

“The tobacco industry has long claimed that smoke-free laws hurt restaurants and bars, but as these claims have been discredited, the industry has increasingly emphasized claims that smoke-free policies would hurt gaming,” according to Glantz. “The data shows that policy makers can enact smoke-free policies without concern that they will affect charitable gaming.”

The study was supported by the National Cancer Institute.