Indiana Supreme Court throws out Evansville smoking ban

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A divided Indiana Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected Evansville’s amended smoking ban, which exempted the former Aztar riverboat casino, now known as Tropicana Evansville.

More than two-dozen tavern and club owners, and several fraternal organizations, including Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2953, challenged the city’s 2012 amendment to its smoking ban that carved out an exemption that permitted smoking at the casino.

By a 3-2 vote, the Supreme Court majority found the amended ordinance violated the equal privileges and immunities clause of the Indiana Constitution and voided the amendment, leaving in place the city’s 2006 smoking ban. It prohibits smoking in workplaces and other public places, but exempts bars, private clubs and riverboats.

“Today, we hold that this clause invalidates an Evansville ordinance expanding the city’s smoking ban to bars and restaurants but exempting its only riverboat casino,” Chief Justice Brent Dickson wrote, joined by Justices Mark Massa and Steven David.

The majority wasn’t persuaded by the city’s argument that the casino should be treated differently than the bars and clubs that weren’t exempted under the statute  because the casino allowed gambling and produced a unique revenue stream for the city.

“It is tantamount to the government ‘selling’ an exemption from the Smoking Ban for the bonus of anticipated financial benefits while burdening other citizens and snubbing our framers’ intent in drafting Article 1, Section 23,” Dickson wrote. “This limitation on government power cannot be evaded on the sole grounds of financial benefit to a city's coffers.”

But Justice Loretta Rush, writing a dissent joined by Justice Robert Rucker, found the argument persuasive and voted to uphold the smoking exemption for casinos.

“Expanding a smoking ban to cover bars, taverns, and private clubs, but exempting a riverboat, is reasonably related to a riverboat’s inherent characteristics – fiscal impact on the local economy and tax revenues, and out-of-town clientele that other local businesses lack.”

The ruling may have little impact on smoking at the casino because a statewide smoking ban enacted in 2012 exempted casinos along with some private clubs, cigar and hookah stores, and bars and taverns meeting certain criteria.


  • Unconstitutional Smoking Ban
    Unbelievable. I can smoke hookahs and cigars in a hookah bar... but NOT a cigarette? Bars effected by this ban are closing their doors by the droves. I am a local musician... and I am struggling to find a venue to play because most of the good ones either closed their doors...or there is simply no people inside to play to. Mostly everyone simply drives down the street to Beech Grove... where they can smoke. The clubs in these exempt towns are BOOMING with business...packed every weekend... while the other "Indy clubs" are being forced to sell...or shut down. This entire law...is WRONG. This is not America anymore it seems. Why can I not own a bar that allows smoking...even if I provide clean air respirators free of charge to anyone who wants one? More freedoms needlessly lost...more businesses needlessly closed... more musicians needlessly unemployed.
  • Smokers are protected
    Actually guys according to amendments article 14 of the us constitution clearly states no state shall pass or enforce laws abridhing(restricting..banning) privledges of us citizens.. Also to theres the freedom of speech right smokers have as well too.. Care to violate our consitutional rights? Then theres equal privledges laws in each states constitution which privledges restricted or allowed have to be in line with the us constitution.. Not overstep it.. So again i agree smoking indoors should be prohibited in public establishments but state n city wide would be violating the constitution itself illegally..
  • No Smoking at ANY Casinos is the answer
    The 2013 Casino revenue statistics showed a huge drop in overall revenues for the Hollywood casino in Lawrenceburg (from $28M to $14.5M). WHY? The new casino in Cincy opened..and that casino has NO SMOKING ALLOWED!! BAN SMOKING IN ALL CASINOS THERE WILL BE NO REVENUE IMPACT!!
  • Good
    What most people don't understand is that this law has really harmed the mom and pop bars. I am willing to bet that over 90% of the workers in the small bars are smokers. It is their choice to work in such a place. The idiots who passed this ban could care less since they would never be caught in a mom and pop type establishment. Let the free market run it's course. If a tavern allows smoking, simply put a sign on each entrance stating this is a smoking establishment. If you don't like the smoke, keep your snooty ass out, we don't want you in there to begin with!
  • Have to disagree
    While I would normally agree with your position, GM, I have to agree in the instance of smoking. For we are actually not better off when exposed to secondhand (or firsthand) smoke - thats science. I can only support personal freedom when it doesn't harm anyone else.
  • Ban government bans
    Busybody politicians are more dangerous to the public than a few smokers consuming a LEGAL product. The less control these people have over our lives, the better off we are.

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  1. These liberals are out of control. They want to drive our economy into the ground and double and triple our electric bills. Sierra Club, stay out of Indy!

  2. These activist liberal judges have gotten out of control. Thankfully we have a sensible supreme court that overturns their absurd rulings!

  3. Maybe they shouldn't be throwing money at the IRL or whatever they call it now. Probably should save that money for actual operations.

  4. For you central Indiana folks that don't know what a good pizza is, Aurelio's will take care of that. There are some good pizza places in central Indiana but nothing like this!!!

  5. I am troubled with this whole string of comments as I am not sure anyone pointed out that many of the "high paying" positions have been eliminated identified by asterisks as of fiscal year 2012. That indicates to me that the hospitals are making responsible yet difficult decisions and eliminating heavy paying positions. To make this more problematic, we have created a society of "entitlement" where individuals believe they should receive free services at no cost to them. I have yet to get a house repair done at no cost nor have I taken my car that is out of warranty for repair for free repair expecting the government to pay for it even though it is the second largest investment one makes in their life besides purchasing a home. Yet, we continue to hear verbal and aggressive abuse from the consumer who expects free services and have to reward them as a result of HCAHPS surveys which we have no influence over as it is 3rd party required by CMS. Peel the onion and get to the root of the problem...you will find that society has created the problem and our current political landscape and not the people who were fortunate to lead healthcare in the right direction before becoming distorted. As a side note, I had a friend sit in an ED in Canada for nearly two days prior to being evaluated and then finally...3 months later got a CT of the head. You pay for what you get...