Be A Clean, Green Shopping Machine

For many years, the economy in Australia consisted of products made by the people who lived here. Like many countries, goods and services have slowly been moving off shore due to cheaper employment and raw material costs in other countries. Today the market in Australia is flooded with products that come from all over the world. This has been great in some ways (cheap Japanese cars and out-of-season fruit, to name but a few) and the cheaper prices have made some purchases a lot easier on the pocket. In other ways it has been detrimental with local businesses being closed and a significant portion of manufacturing being moved overseas. We hear a lot about supporting local but what are the reasons for buying Australian-made compared to a (sometimes cheaper) import?
As a shopper, you might like to think of your purchases as a vote for what you consider appropriate behavior from the store you are buying from. If you think it’s reprehensible to test on animals (let’s face it, it is) then you wouldn’t buy from a store that doesn’t have a strong stance on this subject. If more people feel like you do and stop buying these types of products, the industry will listen and your ‘vote’ will help create a greener, cleaner, friendlier shopping environment – as you can see from the number of green and organic products beginning to surface today – a good sign consumers are moving in a positive direction!

After you’ve set your own moral compass for shopping you should consider adding supporting local business onto your list of requirements. If local businesses flourish, so will the local economy. Yes, buying local can cost a few extra dollars in some cases, but often the extra investment can purchase a product that’s made out of higher quality materials that will last a lot longer than their cheaper counterpart.

You may also want to consider supporting local when it comes to fruit and vegetable shopping. This will mean only buying seasonal fruit when it’s actually in season. Also, think of the cost and environmental impact of importing consumables like fruit and vegetables. If you’re buying off a local farmer, your goods have used less fuel to reach you and will often be much fresher.

Another green shopping method is buying items that are handmade. They can be more labour-intensive than mass-produced imports, but this often means they will be better quality, lasting you longer and lengthening the time before replacement is needed. This effectively reduces the cost in the long run anyway. For example, a craftsperson spends time honing their skills to make a handmade product. The process starts from ground zero and is completed with patience and practice. Only the best materials are used and a learned tradesperson has the know-how from years of experience, to create a long-wearing work of art.

Finally, try to source natural and organic products where you can. Shop for clothes that are made out of natural fabrics and beauty products that are organic and cruelty-free. Your purchasing decision will encourage slow-fashion companies that use natural, non-polluting fibers for manufacturing their clothing items. In making these choices, you can diminish the poor-quality clothes (or throwaway fashion) that are made out of synthetic fibers, which are bad for the environment and your health.

The same goes for beauty products. There are many local companies that manufacture organic, eco-friendly, and cruelty-free products, which are much better than the ones that are mass-produced and contain a wide range of chemical and toxic components. Organic products are great for your skin and body, are entirely safe to use from all points of view, and are not tested on animals, which means that they don’t have to suffer in the name of biped beauty. With this information in mind, we encourage you to go forth young grasshopper and become a sustainable shopper!

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.

Why I Love American Roulette

I bet you won’t agree with me when I say this – I love American roulette.

When I go on a casino trip, I head immediately for double-zero roulette games.

I’ve long been a defender of this casino classic.

After all, I’m an American.

So what is it about double-zero roulette that gets me excited?

First – an explanation of the main difference between American and European game rules.

American vs. European Roulette
The most important difference between American and European rules roulette is the number of spaces in the wheel where the ball might land. American wheels have 38 slots (1-36 plus one green zero and one green double-zero space) and European wheels have 37 slots (1-36 plus one green zero space).

The impact this extra space has on the American game’s odds is pretty significant. All wagers on American roulette games have a 5.26% house edge – while all wagers on single-zero games have a 2.7% house edge. The house edge on the American game is almost double that for single-zero or European tables.

But wait – I haven’t told you the whole story yet. True European roulette games include a special rule that reduces the house’s edge even more in certain game situations. At Euro tables, if the ball lands in the green zero space, bettors get half their wager back. With that rule in place, all even-money bets have a house edge of just 1.3%. Those are excellent odds by anyone’s definition, right?

So why do I love American roulette so much?

It’s Accessible
Only seven Las Vegas casinos host a single-zero roulette game. The Palazzo and the Venetian are the only two that host true American rules roulette – the other five have one European rules table each.

If you don’t do your gambling in Las Vegas, rest assured that your Euro game options are limited, too. The few Atlantic City casinos still in business aren’t eager to hand out money with low-odds games taking up floor space – I don’t know a single AC casino offering single-zero tables outside of a VIP room. You won’t find any single-zero tables in any property in Mississippi or Louisiana that’s run by one of the major operators like Harrah’s. Basically, if you’re in America, American rules games are by far the most common and the most budget-friendly. You may not even have the option of playing single-zero games, especially if you aren’t a high roller.

It’s Familiar
Because I’ve lived my entire life in the United States, I’ve only ever really known or played the single-zero game. I remember getting a casino play-set when I was a kid (with playing cards, a plastic roulette wheel, a ball bearing, some poker chips, and a set of dice), and sure enough, that game’s wheel was set up in imitation of good old USA rules.

I admit – the rules of European roulette are a lot better for the player. The “en prison” rule (the one that will pay you back half your even-money wager on a zero result) is so popular that a few casinos in America adapted it for use on double-zero wheels. Unfortunately, that game never caught on, probably because it cut the house’s edge from 5.26% to 2.63%. I also appreciate that the stupid “five numbers” bet isn’t available on single zero tables – I think that’s a terrible move by the casino to cheat ignorant people out of their money, and I wish it wasn’t available in American games.

But it all comes down to familiarity, for me. When I play the game, I expect a wheel with two green zero spaces. I don’t expect to get half my wager back thanks to “imprisonment rules.” I grew up risking way more of money than you can risk on European tables, and it’s just not familiar to me.

It’s Affordable
If single-zero roulette offers way better odds, why shouldn’t I just stick to those seven casinos when I visit Vegas? Because the vast majority of those single-zero games are in the VIP rooms, with $100 bet minimums. The most affordable single-zero games in town are at the Mirage, and the MGM Grand, where you can play on a single-zero table for a $25 minimum bet.

Most of the American-style roulette games in Las Vegas allow me to bet $5 or $10 per spin. Basically, I can’t afford to play singe-zero roulette. I’m used to seeing about one outcome per minute at a full Las Vegas table – if I wanted to step up to the VIP games, I’d be betting my mortgage four times over each hour. That’s not the kind of action that I (or my wife) can live with. Heck, it’s expensive enough at $600 an hour.

Atlantic City casinos hosted single-zero games years before Las Vegas did – at a time when Atlantic City gambling houses were playgrounds for the well-to-do. In America, European-anything is code for elite and uppity, and that seems to be the case with this European import. Though I consider myself an intellectual, someone able to overcome the trappings of his cultural heritage, I still can’t help but see the double-zero game as comfortable and familiar.

Conclusion
How little do casinos want Americans to play on single-zero wheels? It’s common for online casinos to restrict bets on Euro roulette from counting towards bonus requirements or loyalty points. The tables are practically gone from US casino floors. When you can find them, they’re restricted by high betting minimums or by requiring special permission to enter the VIP room where the games are kept. For all those reasons, I much prefer to play American-rules roulette games. I’m hoping that, after reading this, a few of you will feel the same way, and give the game a second chance.