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Illinois casinos will make one last bid to keep allowing smoking

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By IL Public Radio

Springfield, Ill. – With a state law scheduled to take effect the first of the year to prohibit smoking in Illinois workplaces, casinos are making one last push to be left out.

Anti smoking groups had a big year, getting the law approved. But they're not resting on that victory.

They say casino workers and others who go on the boats are at risk becasue of second hand smoke.

A recent American Lung Association undercover visit to the Casino Queen in East St Louis found air quality in the hazardous range.

But the gaming industry wants casinos kept out of the smoking ban for five years or longer.

A spokesman says prohibiting smoking on Illinois casinos will drive customers to neighboring states, where it's allowed.

"If we can keep that vote separate - a separate vote on the exmeption for casinos from the Smoke Free Illinois Act then I believe we can defeat it," said Kathy Drea, with the Lung Association of Illinois.

But that could prove to be a tough challenge. Those involved with the legislation say the gaming industry wants include the smoking issue in a measure that creates a statewide construction program.

Lawmakers could have a difficult time voting against that legisaltion if there's a deal on paying for local projects in their districts.

but Tom Swoik, who lobbies on behalf of the Illinois gaming industry, says the ban could be devastating for the riverboats: "That's what's been happening in other states, Delaware and up in Canada.

"They had about a 20-25% drop in revenue when the smoking bans went into effect."

Swoik says the latest effort in the Illinois legislature would exempt casinos for up to five years.

The state Senate might consider the matter this week.

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