IU study: Smoking ban doesn’t harm gambling venues

Researchers say there is no economic incentive for lawmakers to exclude off-track betting facilities from a smoking ban under consideration in the Indiana Legislature.

An Indiana University study found that similar legislation implemented in Fort Wayne didn't hurt business at its OTB venue. The study looked at the amount gamblers spent at three OTB venues from 2002 to 2009. The facilities included the smoke-free one in Fort Wayne and two venues that allow smoking in Indianapolis and Merrillville.

Research showed per capita spending declined at a similar rate for all three venues.

Lead author of the study Jon Macy said past studies have said smoke-free laws don't have a negative effect on businesses, but the IU study is one of the first to demonstrate such laws don't hurt gaming venues either.

Study results were released just ahead of a Senate committee meeting on the proposed statewide smoking ban, which allows exemptions for casinos, bars and even nursing homes.

The Senate Public Policy Committee could determine whether so many loopholes belong in the law. Health advocates say a comprehensive ban would protect all workers. But critics worry about casinos and bars losing business.

Lawmakers added the exemption to the legislation because Indiana's nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency estimated in a fiscal note that the state could lose more than $180 million a year in taxes if gamblers couldn't light up at casinos.

The exemptions for bars and casinos will give the proposal a better shot of clearing the conservative Senate.

However, Senate leaders have said they want to take a closer look at exemptions for nursing homes and fraternal clubs, which the House added to appease those who said veterans and those living in nursing homes should have the right to smoke in certain areas.

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