2010/12/04 P-D: “Councilwoman seeks smoking ban exemption for Harrah’s lounges”

It’s disappointing to see efforts being made to roll back planned protections from secondhand smoke for employees and patrons by a St. Louis County casino, especially given that they are already among the most smoke-polluted venues. However, it’s not the first time Harrah’s casino in Maryland Heights has used its financial clout and influence to prevent employees from working in a healthier workplace on economic grounds.

Today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch article by reporter, Phil Sutin, has already garnered 20 comments, liberally sprinkled with the usual arguments from Bill Hannegan, who was quoted in the article. Here are some comments from readers in favor of smoke-free air or observing how Big Business distorts good public policy:

bassmaster said on: December 4, 2010, 9:11 am
Not a problem for me. I quit going to Mo. casinos when Illinois casinos went smoke free. It’s a much better experience when you come out not smelling like an ash tray. So Mo. do whatever you want.

Bill Hanks said on: December 4, 2010, 12:44 pm
So if bars and restaurants had the dough Harrah’s does, then that means there wouldn’t be any smoking ban, right? Just more evidence of corporations running this country.

towerman10 said on: December 4, 2010, 8:16 am
I’m usually not a complainer about smokers even though I do not smoke, I hate seeing anyones rights get taken away from them, but it is so smokey in Harrah’s, my wife and I quite going there. Their machines are too tight anyways.

Below is the article from the Post-Dispatch web site. Reporter Phil Sutin describes me in it as “a longtime anti-smoking advocate.” A more accurate description is “a longtime smoke-free air advocate.” MoGASP’s clearly stated aims do not include the elimination of smoking.

Post-Dispatch reporter Phil Sutin

Councilwoman seeks smoking ban exemption for Harrah’s lounges

By Phil Sutin • psutin@post-dispatch.com > 314-863-2812 | Loading… | Posted: Saturday, December 4, 2010 12:25 am

CLAYTON • The St. Louis County Council will consider whether to exempt two lounges at Harrah’s casino in Maryland Heights from a county smoking ban that will take effect Jan. 2.

County Councilwoman Kathleen Kelly Burkett

County Councilwoman Kathleen Kelly Burkett, D-Overland, said she will introduce a bill Tuesday that would amend the smoking ban to exclude the lounges.

The ban already exempts the casino floor. It also excludes bars in the county where no more than 25 percent of total sales for food and drink come from food.
Harrah’s serves only drinks in the Voo Doo Lounge and a piano bar that otherwise would qualify for an exemption, Burkett said Friday.

But the Gaming Commission, not the county, licenses alcohol sales in the casino, she said. The ban says only bars licensed by the county can get an exemption, she said. Her bill would add bars licensed by the Gaming Commission to the section of the ban that lists those that qualify for exemptions, she said.

The casino is in Burkett’s district. An attorney for Harrah’s about a week ago asked her to seek the change.

The lounges would be the only places her change would affect, Burkett said. The River City Casino in Lemay has two areas on the casino floor, Globar and Aqua, that serve only liquor. They already are exempt because they are on the casino floor, said Mack Bradley, a spokesman for Pinnacle Entertainment, owner of River City. Food and drinks are served together in other areas of the casino.

Pinnacle Entertainment’s Lumière casino in downtown St. Louis has two lounges that serve alcohol, but no food. The city uses the size of a bar to determine whether they are exempt from a smoking ban that also takes effect Jan. 2. Illinois bans smoking in public places, but legislators are considering exempting casinos.

County Councilwoman Barbara Fraser

County Council Chairwoman Barbara Fraser, D-University City, the sponsor of the smoking ban that county voters approved in November 2009, opposes Burkett’s proposal.

“It was my impression that the casino was concerned about keeping smoking on the casino floor, not in any eating or drinking establishment,” she said.

Martin Pion, a longtime anti-smoking advocate, said, “We want to get smoking out of casinos, not extend it.” Employees should not have to face secondhand smoke, he said. Burkett’s proposal “is going in the wrong direction.”

Bill Hannegan, a critic of smoking bans, said Burkett’s proposal would have little impact. People go to Harrah’s for its casino, he said.

“People already can smoke on the casino floor,” he said.

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