Two current bills under consideration by the Illinois General Assembly are expected to generate increased revenues for the state. They would allow smoking in gaming facilities and eligible businesses that have liquor licenses. The International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association favors both proposals and today urged their passage.
House Bill 171 allows smoking in designated segregated ventilated smoking rooms in licensed gaming facilities. House Bill 1310 provides that local liquor control commissions have the power to issue smoking licenses to bars and other adult-oriented establishments that have revenues with no more than 10 percent from food sales.
"The so-called Smoke Free Illinois Act prohibited smoking in all indoor workplaces and public places including bars/taverns, restaurants, private clubs and casinos beginning January 1, 2008. These bills back off at least somewhat from that draconian, irrational position by allowing, under certain circumstances, smoking in casinos and cigar bars and other adult places. As we see it, this would be a return to reason and we support their passage," said Chris McCalla, legislative director of the IPCPR.
McCalla noted that the Illinois Gaming Board has confirmed that passage of HB 171 "could have a positive impact on revenues" and it is generally acknowledged that re-creation of cigar bars also will generate increased revenues for the state as well as local authorities through licensing, taxes, jobs and sales taxes.
"It’s the smart thing to do," said McCalla. "It’s good for business, good for jobs and good for the state. "
The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis has declared that the current statewide smoking ban was the primary reason that its nine casinos lost $400 million in revenues in its first year. The study showed that the smoking ban was chiefly responsible for a 22 percent decline in revenues compared to recent years. It was also responsible for the improved or more stable performance of casinos in nearby states during the same period. In addition, local communities also lost over $12 million in casino tax revenues.
For those concerned about secondhand smoke, don’t be, McCalla advised. He cited the safe levels of secondhand smoke established by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
"There is a falsely placed prejudice regarding secondhand smoke that never should have been allowed to fester in the first place. Even OSHA has established safe levels of secondhand smoke and those levels are literally thousands of times higher than normally found in bars and restaurants that allow smoking."