In Revenue Bid, Illinois Considers Repealing Ban on Smoking in Bars, Casinos

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Which is more important, public health or public coffers? In Illinois, some state legislators believe it is the later, according to a report on a regional Patch site:

Three years after the Smoke Free Illinois Act made it illegal to smoke in public places, the issue is back on the table with three bills Illinois legislators are considering to end the ban on smoking in casinos and some bars....

Local legislators are split on the issue.

"I'm opposed to any change in the smoking legislation," said Rep. Patti Bellock, R-Hinsdale. "I think it was hard enough to pass through the state... and a lot of people have made the major social changes with that and I think that changing it would be very difficult at this time."

Rep. Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, supported the 2008 ban, but has changed his stance. Now, he says, consideration comes down to economics.

"The fact of the matter is we are losing revenue," he said. "People like to smoke when they're gambling, that is an attraction for individuals. I think we need to be careful when applying things so broadly, we have to consider what kind of impact it is going to have on the industry."

Proponents of the bills concerning casinos point to a study commissioned by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis that investigated the effect of the Illinois smoking ban on Illinois casinos. According to the report, estimates suggest that revenue and admission declined by more than 20 and 12 percent, respectively. In real dollars, that translates into a $400 million dollar loss to casinos and a $200 million dollar loss to state and local governments.

Read the full story at Bolingbrook Patch.

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Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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