(KMOV) – Smoking could soon be allowed again in Illinois casinos. State legislators are considering changing the two-year-old law because casino profits and local revenues are being hit hard.
The Federal Reserve of St. Louis estimates that this ban cost the state $400 million in tax revenue over the last two years.
Casino management says customers have been crossing the river in droves since a smoking ban went into effect in Illinois in 2008. Managers say the ban had an immediate 20-28 percent hit on business.
“It's had a significant effect on our business, and a significant effect on the local tax revenue we generate,” says Casino Queen General Manager Jeff Watson.
The loss in business has also affected East St. Louis. The city has struggled with layoffs and deep budget cuts for some time, and the Casino Queen provides 42 percent of the city’s budget.
Despite financial concerns, smoking opponents say it’s a matter of health.
East St. Louis Mayor Alvin Parks says the debate is a tough one. “Nothing's more important than the public's health” he says. “But we have to look at the revenues and jobs that come along with having additional revenue coming in to the Casino Queen.”
Here’s what would change under a new law: any casino that competes with states that allow smoking would be allowed to lift the smoking ban. If that other state bans smoking, then the ban would go back into effect.