Smoking ban exemption for casinos rejected - Wednesday 30th of April 2008

Lawmakers on Wednesday again rejected a plan to allow smoking in Illinois casinos.

The fight to exempt casinos -- and other places such as veterans clubs -- from the smoking ban has been fought since the ban itself was approved by lawmakers last year. So far, no exemptions have been granted.

While a Senate committee approved a plan to exempt casinos from the ban for up to five years, saying the riverboats are seeing less income because of it, the full Senate later rejected it by a 15-35 vote.

Supporters argued the ban has hurt business at the riverboats as gamblers on the states borders have gone to Iowa, Indiana or Missouri where they can light-up indoors.

Were just trying to do something that would be reasonable for everybody, said Senate Republican Leader Frank Watson, a Greenville Republican and the plans sponsor.

Bob Swaim, a spokesman for Jumers Casino Rock Island argued in before the committee that the smoking ban was sending gamblers across the Mississippi River to the boats in Iowa.

What the smoking ban did to us is the worst thing to happen to us in long, long, long time, Swaim said.

State Sen. Debbie Halvorson, D-Crete, voted against the exemption, saying that while the casinos may be taking in less money, numbers show attendance at the casinos hasnt dropped since the ban took effect in January.

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