By Joey Groner | LSU Student
While the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport has nearly completed its $11 million renovations, one recent addition is drawing the negative attention of some passengers.
A prominent advertisement for L'Auberge Casino and Hotel is displayed outside of the arrival terminal, welcoming visitors and residents to Baton Rouge. The advertisement contains pictures of slot machines, card tables and other casino-related images. The most controversial aspect of the sign is its message, in nearly one-foot-high capital letters, directing arrivals to Baton Rouge to seek help if they are addicted to gambling.
"GAMBLING PROBLEM ? PLEASE CALL 800.522.4700," the banner below the length of the mini-billboard reads.
The directive is required by law to be present on public gambling advertisements.
Baton Rouge resident Hugh Honoré said the warning was the first thing he saw when walking through the terminal.
"I was kind of shocked by it, I guess this is the first time I've flown through Baton Rouge since they put the sign in," Honoré said. "Gambling doesn't bother me at all, but the sign could be positioned better. The first thing that hits you is, ‘Do you have a gambling problem?'"
Jim Caldwell, public relations manager for the airport, said that Clear Channel Communications is responsible for selling the airport's advertising space and that the advertisements must meet their standards.
"The sign is a good source of revenue for us, especially when considering that we had to finance a renovation," Caldwell said. "There are some offensive things that Clear Channel would restrict from advertising here, but the casinos [with their required warnings] are not restricted."
Caldwell said he preferred a similar welcome sign that was in the airport prior to L'Auberge. He said the sign, sponsored by a Baton Rouge law firm, sported a picture of the city's skyline at night. Caldwell said that sign did a better job of welcoming visitors to the city.
Jacques Berry, communication director for the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism in the Lieutenant Governor's Office, does not have an issue with the L'Auberge sign.
"I don't really see it being a big problem or giving people the wrong impression," Berry said. "Casinos and gambling are a part of the tourism in Baton Rouge and Louisiana as a whole. To ignore that wouldn't be smart."
Some travelers through the airport, however, saw it differently.
Evelyn Bennett, a resident of Sacramento, Calif., who came to Baton Rouge to visit family, said she found the sign humorous.
"I sort of laughed and shook my head when I saw it for the first time," Bennett said. "It definitely jumps out at you, but if I were a resident I wouldn't like it."
Myles Green, a Baton Rouge resident who travels through the airport frequently, said he finds the sign misleading and believes the airport can do a better job of advertising what the capital city has to offer.
"I didn't notice it my first few times walking by it, not until I heard some other passengers laughing at it once," Green said. "Now every time I see it, I'm upset. Baton Rouge has so much more to offer than drinking and gambling, and I think the airport needs to focus on that."