SPRINGFIELD - Lawmakers voted against plans to exempt Illinois casinos from a proposed statewide smoking ban Thursday, but supporters of the exemption say it's not dead.
State Sen. James Clayborne, D-Belleville, said despite the measure's 31-26 defeat in the Senate late Thursday, he intends to make a second push to allow casino-goers to light up.
The smoking ban has passed both the House and the Senate and awaits the signature of Gov. Rod Blagojevich to become law.
Proponents of the exemption argue the majority of casino patrons are smokers and the ban would send them over the state line to smoker-friendly casinos in Iowa and Indiana. This, Clayborne said, could cost casinos as much as 20 percent of their revenue if the ban is implemented.
Clayborne has contended that such a loss of revenue would be a debilitating blow for towns like East St. Louis that depend on casino dollars to fund their operating budgets.
Opponents of the exemption, including the American Lung Association of Illinois, have argued that there should be no exceptions to the ban and that health concerns supersede any other interests.
Proponents meanwhile argue the government has no place dictating to private businesses, including casinos.
"We ought to allow private property owners to make the decision on what legal activities should take place on their property," said State Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington.