The casino industry is disputing a new study that claims Illinois’ smoking ban hasn’t had an affect on gaming revenue.
The report, in the journal Tobacco Control, examined the effects of the Smoke-Free Illinois Act on casino admissions and adjusted gross receipts using 18 years of data, 10 years before and eight years after the Illinois law went into effect. Its conclusion is the ban has had no significant negative economic consequences for casinos in terms of per-capita admissions or revenues.
Tom Swoik, executive director of the Illinois Casino Gambling Association, begs to differ.
“All of our statistics show that it had a significant impact on the casinos,” Swoik said. “I just think they looked at a lot of the wrong figures. From 2007 to 2008, we showed a decrease of almost two million admissions. Our tax amounts that we paid in those two years went down $199.7 million.”
The smoking ban at casinos took effect at the beginning of 2008.
“From 2007-2008, our revenues went down 20.9 percent,” Swoik said. “And that was at a time when revenues in Indiana went down 10 or 11 percent, Missouri went down 5 percent, Iowa actually went up. The only other state in the country that had that large of an impact on revenue was Colorado. They went down 17 percent, but they also had a smoking ban that took effect in 2008.”
Swoik says the only other state that saw revenue fall so drastically in that time period was Colorado, which also enacted a smoking ban beginning in January 2008. He says the hard data and anecdotal evidence point to a negative impact on Illinois’ gaming facilities.
“Less time at the machines or tables is less revenue,” Swoik said. “We now find that people win a jackpot, they go outside to have a cigarette, and they decide, ‘Hey, I’m ahead. I’m getting out of here.’ When there’s less time at the tables, there’s less revenue.”
Swoik says Illinois is at a disadvantage because all of the surrounding states with casinos still allow smoking in gaming facilities. He also points to a different report that came to the opposite conclusion.
“There’s a report out of the Federal Reserve in St. Louis that came out a year or two after the smoking ban went into effect,” Swoick said. “It showed [the ban] had a significant impact on revenue in Illinois.”
That study estimated the smoking ban was associated with a 20 to 22 percent revenue decline, amounting to a total loss in casino revenue of more than $400 million.
Swoik says despite a decrease in adjusted gross receipts at Illinois casinos from nearly $2 billion in 2007 to $1.4 billion in 2017, he doesn’t think there’s any momentum in Springfield for a repeal of the smoking ban.