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Illinois mulls smoking ban loophole to lure back gamblers, raise casino revenues, tax receipts

Publication Date: 2011-05-10
  • Author:Associated Press
  • Publication:Washington Post

Some lawmakers would like to lure Hutchison and his cigarettes back to Illinois. As cash-strapped governments grasp for every quarter, the state is among several contemplating loopholes in smoking bans to keep more gamblers — and their money — from slipping across the border.

An Illinois Senate committee could deliberate Wednesday on a bill to allow smoking in casinos so gamblers don’t escape to Indiana, Iowa and Missouri.

Casino owners blame the bans for the loss of millions of dollars in revenues and the subsequent fall in tax receipts. The American Gaming Association estimates that about 20 percent of casino patrons smoke.

But gambling and smoking opponents say the loss claims are exaggerated and that the loopholes are bad public health policy. The Illinois bill passed the House 62-52, but faces stiff opposition from key senators and Gov. Pat Quinn.

“It’s discrimination against the people who work in casinos,” said Kathy Drea, vice president of advocacy for the American Lung Association in Illinois. “They’re saying their health isn’t worth the same as everyone else’s.”