Smoking Could Return to Bars, Casinos

Illinois House committee approved two proposals Wednesday

Thursday, Mar 10, 2011  |  Updated 7:14 PM CDT
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An <a title=Illinois House committee approved proposals that would tweak the current ban signed into law by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich." />

Phil Rogers, Joel Africk, Pat Caroll,

An Illinois House committee approved proposals that would tweak the current ban signed into law by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

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Just three years after it was abolished, smoking could make a return to casinos and bars under two bills before the Illinois General Assembly.

A House committee on Wednesday approved both proposals. 

HB 171 would allow smoking in segregated, ventilated rooms in licensed casinos. HB 1310 also would give local liquor control commissions the power to issue smoking licenses to bars and other adult-oriented establishments that make no more than 10 percent of their revenues from food sales.

Many bar owners and casino representatives, citing a loss in revenue since the 2008 ban, welcome the proposals. 

"Since the ban went into effect, casino revenues are down over 31 percent," Tom Swoik, the executive director of the Illinois Casino Gaming Association, told the State Journal-Register.  "It is very clear the majority of the drop was because of the smoking ban."

But others, like Kathy Drea of the American Lung Association in Illinois, said that revenue increases don't make up for the dangers of second-hand smoke.

"Smoking licenses, we call those licenses to kill," she said, according to the Daily Herald.  "Any money made from a smoking license would not cover the eventual medical expenses."

No state has ever weakend its smoking laws.

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