On Tuesday, the Illinois House voted 62-52 to end a ban on smoking inside riverboat casinos, which, if passed could affect all 10 riverboat casinos in the state of Illinois. The ban was passed back in 2007, which is when the state began the ban in all indoor work places. But today’s decision to push for the lift on the smoking ban could completely change that.
The House’s decision came after heated debates over what was more important: the health of casino-goers and casino employees or the loss of revenue from gamblers going to out-of-state casinos where smoking is allowed indoors. The House decided that the latter was much more vital to Illinois, especially after statistics showed that since the smoking ban was put in place, gambling revenue was down about 32 percent and had already cost the state around $800 million in taxes from the casinos’ business.
But advocates for retaining the ban, like the American Lung Association in Illinois, said that the healthcare cost savings were nearly over $1.18 billion since the ban was instated in 2007. Additionally, health advocates said that the ban protected both workers and casino-goers who would otherwise be smoking themselves or sitting around breathing in secondhand smoke for hours.
But still, the health cost savings could not sway the majority of the House and now that it has passed with a 62-52 vote, the next step will be for the bill to head to the Senate. Opponents of the original ban are hoping that by lifting it, Illinois will see more revenue and business that was being lost to the nearby states of Iowa and Missouri, both of which allow smoking in their riverboat casinos.
Some casino-goes are in support of lifting the ban. Doug Simpson, a 42-year-old resident of the Quad Cities, said, “it’s a lot easier to go to out-of-state if you smoke. Having to get up and leave several times can be a huge inconvenience, so if you can smoke inside, it’s a lot more accommodating.”
Jan Kerris, a Chicago resident and frequent casino-goer, said, “More people are non-smokers, so you’re catering to those who do. I like being able to go and not sit in secondhand smoke all day. I think that if the ban is lifted, I’ll go much less often.”
After the initial smoking ban in indoor work places, numerous measures were taken to allow smokers to light up in casinos. Back November, elected officials began pushing for the bill that would allow Illinois casinos to create separate rooms for gamblers with special air filtering systems. It would also require workers who wanted to work in the smoking rooms to sign a waiver stating their knowledge of the dangers of secondhand smoke.
Rachel Krech provides an in-depth look at current environmental issues and local Chicago news stories. As a college student from the Chicago suburbs pursuing two science degrees, she applies her knowledge and passion to both topics to garner further public awareness.