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Supreme Court, split 3-2, snuffs Evansville casino smoking exception

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

More than two dozen bar, 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.

The Supreme Court majority held 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.

“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 case is Paul Stieler Enterprises, Inc., d/b/a Harbor Bay, et al. v. City of Evansville and Evansville Common Council; VFW Post 2953, et al. v. City of Evansville and Evansville Common Council, 82S01-1306-CT-436 and 82S01-1306-PL-437.

The majority wasn’t persuaded by the city’s argument that the casino was situated 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 would 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.

 


 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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