UPDATED 03/30/11 5:59 a.m.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) – Illinois lawmakers have begun moving forward with an effort to lift the state’s smoking ban at riverboat casinos located near other states without smoking bans.
Casinos have long said that the 2008 smoking ban has hurt business at Illinois riverboats, because Iowa, Indiana and Missouri casinos have no such bans.
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Rep. Daniel Burke (D-Chicago) said Illinois casinos have lost $800 million since 2008 as a result of the smoking ban.
On Tuesday, the Illinois House voted 62-52 to amend the smoking ban to exempt Illinois riverboats if their closest neighboring state does not ban smoking at casinos.
Supporters of the smoking ban have said it’s unfair to subject gamblers and casino workers to dangerous second-hand smoke.
“When we first introduced this bill, it was all about people’s health, and I still say today, why are people who work in casinos’ lives any less important than anybody else’s?” state Rep. Karen Yarbrough (D-Maywood) said.
But Burke said casinos have improved air filtration systems to reduce the health concerns from smoking.
Burke also says the bill provides for casinos to revert to nonsmoking if the ones across state lines do so first.
Burke’s proposal now goes to the Illinois Senate for consideration.
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