The latest statewide battlefront for the rights of smokers is Indiana, and those who enjoy the legal product of tobacco are currently on the losing end of the conflict.
Four efforts in the past to pass public smoking bans at the state level have failed; previously, those bans have included exemptions. The most-recent effort in 2009, by state Representative Charlie Brown, D-Gary, died in a state Senate committee after being passed by the House.
This time around, though, Brown’s proposed legislation does not include any exemptions. Brown is also on the record as saying he would fight amendments that would exempt businesses like restaurants, bars and casinos.
Making matters worse for smokers who live in and visit Indiana is that Republican Governor Mitch Daniels is on board with the idea, saying he’d sign any legislation brought to his desk because there is “growing momentum for one.” Initially, Daniels resisted efforts at a statewide ban, as he supported leaving the decision to local jurisdictions.
Daniels is on board now, though, because he says such localities have shown bans can be enacted with significant benefits and minimal cost. Indianapolis’ ban, for example, crushed out smoking in all workplaces, including bars where patrons under the age of 18 are allowed.
Somewhat surprisingly, The Indiana Chamber of Commerce supports the smoking ban.
When it comes to banning smoking in casinos, though, Indiana may want to take a lesson from neighboring state Illinois. The Land of Lincoln saw a drop in gambling revenues, after the state enacted a smoking ban for riverboat casinos. According to a report from a bi-partisan state legislature commission, gambling revenue from sources like casinos, the lottery and horse-racing tracks totaled just over $1 billion in the last fiscal year, a 4.5 percent drop from the previous year. The decrease is laid squarely at the doorstep of Illinois’ nine riverboat casinos, where revenues are off partially because of current economic woes and competition from other states where smoking is currently allowed in casinos.
One of those competing states? Indiana.
Legislators in the Hoosier State should know, though, that Illinois has taken notice of the smoking/casino connection. State lawmakers in Illinois have been discussing new legislation that would scale back the statewide smoking ban. One such proposal would allow Illinois’ 9 casinos to build designated, ventilated smoking rooms for gamblers.