Smoking Ban Has Hurt State’s Casinos

Published June 15, 2009

Senator [Terry] Link seems to think the state’s smoking ban did not harm Illinois casinos (June 11, “Smoke could be clearing for casinos”). He’s wrong. The numbers clearly show that many smoking patrons are not coming back to Illinois casinos, and those who do spend less time — and money — than they used to.

For obvious reasons, the first year of a smoking ban is when you see most of its effects. In Illinois, revenues declined 21 percent, while neighboring Missouri, Iowa, and Indiana — all without smoking bans — had revenues stay flat or make slight gains even during a slowing economy.

When an industry that used to bring in $500 million a year loses nearly 25 percent of its revenues over two years, there’s no question a lot of jobs and tax revenues were lost. No matter how the senator wants to spin it, Illinois casinos are at a huge disadvantage due to the smoking ban, regardless of how good or bad the economy is.

John Nothdurft,
budget and tax legislative specialist,
The Heartland Institute

This letter to the editor was originally published in the Chicago Sun-Times.