The following story, published on page 6 of today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch, was the first I’d heard of any effort to weaken the Illinois Smoke Free Air Act, which went into effect in January, 2008.
This comprehensive law was unusual in that it also required casinos to be totally smoke-free. It was a major accomplishment on the part of the supporters of the law when Illinois included this broad provision which included casinos.
Often, as in St. Louis County and City ordinances passed last year which go into effect on January 2nd next year, such laws will exempt casino gaming floors and allow smoking on them. That is done not for health reasons but because it’s the path of least resistance, and avoids a fight with well-funded gaming interests.
Independent research funded by Missouri GASP into the impact of the Illinois Smoke Free Air Act on casino revenue, covering a full year before the law went into effect plus a full year afterwards, and comparing those results with neighboring states with no restrictions, is nearing completion. It provides important unbiased scientific data and conclusions on this issue, and should be carefully considered before any precipitous action is taken by the Illinois legislature.
Illinois pondering returning smoking to casinos
BY KEVIN McDERMOTT > email@example.com > 217-782-4912 | (93) Comments | Posted: Tuesday, November 16, 2010 10:17 amUPDATE, 3:10 pm — The measure to exempt the state’s casinos from the smoking ban passed the House Executive Committee today on a 9-1 vote. Several of the “yes” votes specified that they have problems with the bill and were merely voting to send it on for a full floor debate, a common practice. It now goes to the full House.
Among the witnesses was a Casino Queen lobbyist who argued, as other proponents do, that Illinois has lost some $500 million in two years to competition from neighboring states where smoking in the casinos is allowed. They revealed that about 20 state lawmakers toured the Queen and Lumiere in St. Louis on Monday to see for themselves the difference in foot traffic.
Speaking against the measure was the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society and the Illinois Department of Public Health, which argued that it’s not clear the smoking ban is responsible for the revenue loss — and that, in any case, it’s peanuts next to the $4 billion-plus in health care costs to Illinois from smoking. They also argued the exception would be unfair to bars and others that would still be under the smoking ban.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois lawmakers this afternoon are expected to take up a bill that would roll back the state’s new smoking ban in gambling establishments.
Illinois recently banned smoking in all public indoor venues, including gaming facilities. The gaming industry claims that ban has put Illinois casinos at a competitive disadvantage with those of neighboring states like Missouri.
A bill expected before the Illinois House Executive Committee this afternoon (HB1846, House Amendment 1) would re-allow smoking in the state’s casinos, “if smoking is not banned in gaming facilities located in the nearest neighboring state.”
The measure goes on to state: “This exemption shall no longer apply to a gaming facility on and after the date that smoking is banned in gaming facilities located in the nearest neighboring state.”
The Legislature is back in Springfield today for the first day of its fall veto session. It will go for part of this week and then in the last week of the month.