* The House narrowly approved a bill this afternoon to lift the state’s smoking ban at Illinois casinos…
The proposal, which passed 62-52 and now moves to the state Senate, represents a significant softening of the state’s 2008 anti-smoking law that banned tobacco use in virtually all indoor public areas.
“Ladies and gentleman, if we’re serious about our budget crisis in Illinois, let’s be real. This is not about the smoking issue. This is about the money,” said Rep. Dan Burke (D-Chicago), the bill’s House sponsor.
Burke said the smoking prohibition has cost the state $800 million in lost casino-tax revenues since the imposition of the ban and would put Illinois’ casinos on par with casinos in neighboring states that allow bettors to smoke.
Opponents argued that other states have added casinos, which partly accounts for Illinois’ sliding casino tax revenues, and that carving out an exemption for casinos will embolden other businesses, like bars and restaurants, to try legislatively sidestepping the smoking ban. […]
A report by the General Assembly’s Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability characterized the indoor smoking ban as “the biggest contributor” behind a 28 percent decline in casino revenues since January 2008.
* Gov. Pat Quinn, however, has said he opposes the idea. Listen…
Even if the bill makes it through the Senate, supporters have a long way to go to find the votes to override a Quinn veto. Then again, Quinn has changed his mind before.