Yeah, we're looking your way, sweetheart.
On Monday, a group of twenty or so Illinois legislators toured the Casino Queen in East St. Louis. That same day they also visited the Lumiere Casino just across the river in downtown St. Louis.
The difference in the number of gamblers at the two venues was apparently enough for the Illinois lawmakers to consider exempting casinos from the state's blanket smoking ban on all workplaces. As the Post-Dispatch
reports this morning, the Illinois House Executive Committee voted 9-1 yesterday to back a bill to exclude casinos
from the smoking ban.
Illinois casinos claim they've lost $550 million since the statewide smoking ban went into effect in 2008, with gamblers heading to Missouri, Indiana and other states that allow them to puff away. Indeed, a recent study of the gaming industry by the Illinois Government Forecasting and Accountability
noted these alarming figures:
The smoking ban impacts the gaming industry because of the high percentage of casino patrons that also smoke and desire to do so when gambling. An article from mainetoday.com reports that "surveys show 35 to 40 percent of casino customers smoke, compared with roughly 20 percent of the general population." Some Illinois casinos indicated in the past that they believe that as much as 60% to 70% of their
patrons smoked while attending their riverboats.
Of course, the smoking ban was initially approved to protect the health of the good people of Illinois. But then, does anyone really expect politicians to choose the well-being of their constituents over money? We wouldn't bet on it.