notobacco

Gaming Industry Stacks Deck Against Smokefree Workplaces

In State News on August 24, 2009 at 9:52 am

A study commissioned by the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation reveals gaming interests reported more than $3.6 million in lobbying expenditures in a two-year period ending April 30, 2009, according to Indiana public records. Individuals employed by lobbying organizations that represent casinos and horse tracks reported giving more than $228,000 to state political party committees and legislative caucus committees in 2008.

House Speaker Patrick Bauer’s reelection campaign took in at least $60,000 in donations in 2008 from horse racing industry supporters, employees of lobbying firms for casinos and affiliated contributors, including $39,000 in one day alone.

The facts were made public in the “ANR Foundation’s Gaming the Legislature Series: The Gaming Industry Stacks the Deck Against Smokefree Workplaces in Indiana.” Cynthia Hallett, executive director of the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, said the report shows how casinos and allied gaming interests spend enormous amounts of money to buy influence to try to tilt the legislative process in their favor.

“The millions of dollars spent by the gaming industry in Indiana to influence legislation have had a toxic payout for Indiana’s casino workers and the public. When casinos use this influence to defeat a common sense comprehensive smokefree workplace law, the entire state suffers the consequences,” said Hallett. “I hope legislators are able to look past this vast amount of special interest money to act in the best interest of the people of Indiana.”

Karena Walter, a longtime Indiana casino worker, said she hopes legislators ultimately will do the right thing and protect all Hoosier workers from disease and death caused by secondhand smoke.

“I just want to do my job without the health risk that comes from secondhand smoke. I love the work I do and I love my co-workers, but we shouldn’t have to make a choice between our jobs and our health,” said Walter.

The Indiana Gaming Study Commission meets today at 10am in room 431 to discuss, among other issues, “nonsmoking accommodations at riverboat casinos and racinos.”

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