SPRINGFIELD -- The sponsor of a proposal allowing smoking in Illinois casinos says the idea might be dead because of opposition in the Senate.
State Rep. Daniel Burke, D-Chicago, said Wednesday he thought Senate President John Cullerton would not allow the legislation exempting casinos from the statewide indoor smoking ban to be called for a vote in a Senate committee. The Illinois House has already approved the measure.
The legislation was expected to be debated in a committee Wednesday, but state Sen. Martin Sandoval, the Senate sponsor, didn't show.
Cullerton, D-Chicago, told reporters after the hearing that he would vote "no" on the legislation, but he was actually eager to debate it.
Burke said that over the last three years, the state has lost about $800 million because of the smoking ban as gamblers went across state borders to spend their money at casinos in Indiana, Iowa and Missouri where smoking is allowed.
"It was not a smoking bill, it was a money bill," he said.
However, the American Lung Association disputed that claim. The group commissioned a poll that found about three-quarters of Illinois gamblers would either be more likely to visit a casino where smoking is not allowed, or that it didn't make a difference.
Clyde Barrow, director of the Center for Policy Analysis at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, which conducted the poll, said the recession was the main cause of declining gaming revenues.
"Gaming revenues rely heavily on discretionary spending," Barrow said.
Out of 401 survey respondents, 45 percent said they would be more likely a casino where smoking is prohibited, while 24 percent said they would be less likely to do so. Thirty-one percent said it didn't matter to them, the group found.
The legislation is House Bill 1965.