The Indiana Supreme Court has struck down Evansville's smoking ban.
Tavern and private club owners say the exemption of Tropicana Casino violates the state constitution, and the Indiana Supreme Court agrees.
According to the in majority opinion by Chief Justice Dickson, the city exempting riverboat casinos from the Smoking Ban "...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."
Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke released the following statement on the court's decision:
"We are disappointed by today's ruling of the Indiana Supreme Court. The ordinance that was struck down was a bipartisan piece of legislation. It was passed 7-2 by the City Council and approved by me. The legislation was designed to protect the health and safety of Evansville residents, not to create the so called unequal treatment between bars, taverns, private clubs and the riverboat casino. It is important to note that in addition to the bipartisan approval by the City Council and me, the ordinance was deemed constitutional by the trial court, three court of appeal judges, and two of the five Indiana Supreme Court justices. We encourage businesses to continue to enforce a no smoking policy, while the city continues to evaluate the legal implications of this ruling."
The decision means that the 2012 amendment to Evansville's smoking ordinance which expanded the smoking ban to bars and restaurants but exempted Tropicana Casino, has been stricken in its entirety.
The decision also states, "The 2006 Smoking Ban is therefore restored as it existed before the 2012 amendment."
The 2006 ordinance prohibited smoking in workplaces an other public places in the City of Evansville, but exempted bars, private clubs, and riverboats.
Last year, a Vanderburgh County judge and the Indiana Court of Appeals rejected the tavern owners' argument, saying the casino mostly serves people from out of state, and that the casino pays taxes taverns are not required to pay.
The Indiana Alcohol & Tobacco Commission says establishments that are no longer prohibited from allowing smoking as a result of the ruling must still follow with the state smoking law. In particular, all of the appropriate signs must be posted, and an exemption form must be filed with the Indiana State Excise Police, before allowing smoking.
ATC officials say fraternal and social clubs who want to allow smoking must first vote to allow smoking at the club.
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