You did see this coming, right?

This was one of the surest bets you could have made a year ago:

Smoking ban has apparently cut into revenue from charitable gambling
The statewide ban, which began late last year, is tied to a significant decline in bar pulltab and bingo receipts, according to a study by the State Gambling Control Board.

By MARK BRUNSWICK, Star Tribune

Affirming what American Legion hall operators and mom-and-pop bar owners had warned, a new report shows that the statewide ban on smoking enacted last year appears to have cut into charitable gambling revenues from bar game pulltabs and bingo.

Gross receipts from charitable gambling were down 12.8 percent in the last three months of 2007, which correlates with when the statewide smoking ban took effect. Even taking into account a weakening economy, the ban is likely to be responsible for a decline in gross receipts of 7.5 percent to 8 percent, or a loss equal to $95 million to $105 million a year, according to the report.

The overall 12.8 percent drop represents the largest decline in receipts since lawful gambling was first regulated in the state in 1985, according to the report released Monday by the State Gambling Control Board, which regulates the industry.

The new report shows that towns close to states that have not enacted a smoking ban appear to have been more affected. Sites near tribal casinos, where smoking can be permitted, have seen receipts decline more than the state average for several years, an apparent trend that began before the ban.

Charitable gambling officials predict revenue declines of 16 percent to 18 percent through this year. Anticipating the effect, the industry has been pushing for several pieces of legislation that would give them more flexibility in their operations.

So now, what do you want to bet that we’ll have legislation liberalizing (good word, that) or expanding gambling to more venues to make up for the shortfall? After all, it’s for the children! And the vets! Or are you some unpatriotic child-hater? Come on, everybody pull(tab) together!

The lobbyists and our legislature have focused on getting everyone to kick their Camels … while letting another camel get it’s head further into the tent. (But hey, it’s a big tent!)

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