Illinois Senate snuffs out smoking in casinos

Springfield, Illinois — The Illinois Senate early Friday voted down a measure that would have allowed casino patrons to continue lighting up next year even as smokers in all other public places in the state are forced to snuff out their cigarettes.

However, proponents of the idea could try again today.

The Legislature has previously approved a statewide public smoking ban which Gov. Rod Blagojevich has said he will sign into law, making it effective Jan. 1.

As it stands, the state’s nine riverboat casinos would be included in that ban. But the Senate legislation would retroactively remove the casinos from the ban.

Proponents say it’s necessary to protect the tax income that the state and local host communities receive from the boats, especially those in border areas like the Metro East, where competing boats in other states will continue to allow smoking. Health advocates argue that casino employees’ rights would be violated if they were forced to continue breathing second-hand smoke.

In a vote shortly after midnight Thursday, the Senate narrowly voted against approving the bill amendment that contained the exemption. However, the bill itself, and several other similar amendments, still are alive and could be called for another vote today.

Blagojevich’s office hasn’t returned messages asking whether he supports a casino exemption to the smoking ban.

The bill is SB890.