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Lawmakers in Australia, Illinois Fight Over Casino Smoking

10 March 2011 by admin

smoking_largeIt’s getting to be harder and harder for smokers to find a place where they are allowed to relax and enjoy a few cancer sticks. Across the globe, governments are banning smoking in virtually every indoor facility. Sometimes common-sense exceptions are made for places like bars and casinos, while other times they are not.

Recently lawmakers as far apart as Australia and Illinois (USA) have been in the news for challenges to their anti-smoking casino policies. In Australia, anti-gambling activist senator Nick Xenophon and South Australian Premier Mike Rann have criticized Sky City Casino for trying to find a way around the ban on smoking in their casino. The casino’s brilliant idea is to move 20 poker machines to an outdoor courtyard, creating a smoking section for gamblers. That way, they are not allowing smoking indoors, which violates the law, but they are still allowing smokers to smoke while playing slots if they so choose. Anyone who doesn’t want to be exposed to the smoke can avoid the courtyard and do their gambling indoors. So there can’t possibly be a problem with that, right?

Wrong. Rann called the plan “reprehensible” and Xenophon said it was motivated by greed. For people like Xenophon, “greed” is a code word for a desire to make money, which is the purpose of opening any business in the first place. Rann said that if closing that loophole “requires an amendment to the Casino Act of 1997, that is exactly what we will do.”

That makes it clear that the smoking ban is not aimed protecting those who don’t want to be exposed to smoke, as politicians often claim. In this case, non-smokers can simply avoid the smoking area and have no problems. Instead, the politicians are trying to prevent everyone from smoking. Since it’s harmful, people shouldn’t do it and since people won’t stop on their own, the government must stop them for their own good. It’s the typical big government philosophy and it is wrong. I am a non-smoker who honestly finds cigarettes disgusting, but that doesn’t mean the government should be preventing people from doing it or preventing businesses from allowing it.

Illinois_2But hey, that’s Australia. Something like that couldn’t happen in the United States, the land of the free, right (cue laughter)? It is all across the country. The good news is that Illinois is now considering exempting casinos from its smoking ban. On Wednesday, a House committee passed a bill that would allow casinos to offer smoking indoors if casinos in nearby states do. The thinking in that bill, proposed by Representative Dan Burke, seems to be that if smokers are simply going to head across the border to go to a different casino, you might as well let them in yours.

The act of smoking has long been associated with gambling, perhaps just as much as drinking alcohol. Therefore, casinos that don’t allow smoking lose business to smokers who don’t want to be turned away or told to put out their cigarette.

In a separate bill that was also passed by the committee, this one proposed by Representative Anthony DeLuca, businesses would be allowed to apply for smoking licenses. Those with the licenses would be able to allow smoking in their establishment. Private clubs, bars, restaurants and casinos would be eligible to apply for a smoking license. If passed, that bill would be a step toward freedom, with the businesses getting to decide whether it would be best for them and their customers to allow smoking.

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