Faced with declining gambling revenues, Illinois lawmakers have recently introduced a pair of bill proposals that would reprieve part of the state's smoking ban and allow lighting up in some of the state's gaming facilities.
House Bill 1850, introduced by Chicago Democratic Rep. Andrew Thapedi, would allow smoking in riverboat casinos, as long as modern ventilation systems are installed and staff working in smoking areas agree to work there. This bill has advanced through a House committee and could be voted on as soon as next week.
Another bill, HB 1846, would lift the smoking ban on casinos located near bordering states that don't ban smoking in casinos; however, if these competing "border" casinos were to go smoke-free as well, the previous blanket smoking ban in Illinois would be reinstated.
Recently, a Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis report stated that the Illinois indoor smoking ban, in effect since 2008, is the primary reason for the state's declining gambling revenues, estimated in the same report to be about $400 million. That number amounts to about $200 million in lost tax revenue for the state.