Another attempt by a well-intentioned but misguided legislator, state Rep. André M. Thapedi, D-Chicago, to put smoking back into Illinois casinos, using the economic argument for doing so. One of the comments posted on-line following the article hit the nail on the head though:
Tonymustgo said on: November 30, 2010, 1:55 pm
Of course revenue is down. We have 10 percent unemployment and nearly everyone feels the pinch on discretionary spending. Unless you’re a gambling addict, spending at casinos comes from your discretionary funds. ……
As she has done consistently in the past, Kathy Drea of the American Lung Association argued against the proposal on health grounds. That was the foremost reason for the Illinois Smoke Free Air Law in the first place.
BY KEVIN McDERMOTT > firstname.lastname@example.org > 217-782-4912 | (48) Comments | Posted: Monday, November 29, 2010 12:34 pm
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The question is still smoldering in Illinois this week: Should the state re-allow smoking in its casinos — after banning it in all indoor public places more than two years ago — as a way of recouping gaming losses from Missouri and other neighbors?
An Illinois House committee today advanced a bill that would allow Illinois casinos to set up separate smoking rooms for gamblers. The bill, HB1850 (House Amendment 1), would require “state of the art” air-filtration systems in the rooms, and anyone who wanted to work there would have to apply separately and sign a waiver acknowleging the dangers of second-hand smoke.“I’m a non-smoker. I’m also an asthmatic. But I can count,” state Rep. André M. Thapedi, D-Chicago, told the House Executive Committee as he presented the bill. He cited estimates that Illinois has lost some $200 million a year since the state’s landmark indoor smoking ban took effect in January 2008.
The casino industry says the facilities in East St. Louis and other border areas around the state are losing customers to casinos in adjacent states where people are allowed to smoke. Illinois heavily taxes casino income, and proponents of resuming smoking in the casinos say better profits at the tables and slots could help alleviate the state’s crushing budget deficit.
Earlier this month, another measure was introduced that would open up smoking entirely in the casinos, with the condition that the ban would go back into effect for any casino whose border competition bans smoking. That bill (HB1846) passed the same committee two weeks ago, and is pending in the House.
Thapedi’s bill was presented as a compromise that would continue to limit smoking, while allowing enough of it to lure gamblers back to Illinois. It passed the committee, but neither side in the debate appeared to be embracing it.
Opponents, including Kathy Drea of the American Lung Association, cited data showing that the Casino Queen in East St. Louis had high smoke content in its air throughout the facility even when it used to have separate smoking and non-smoking sections, and they said experts don’t believe it’s possible to filtrate smoke-filled air to safe levels. Meanwhile, state Rep. Daniel Burke, D-Chicago, sponsor of the earlier measure to re-allow smoking, questioned whether the latest proposal would really help the casinos by allowing smoking on such a limited basis.
Burke and Drea started getting into it at one point, with Burke demanding: “Ms. Drea, do you have recommendation on how we can recover that kind of revenue?” Drea responded that the state would save billions in health care costs by further discouraging smoking.
The bill now moves to the full House.