2011-08-15 P-D Editorial: “Clearing the smoky air between the river banks”

Reminder: For a comment to be considered it must be accompanied by your full name: first name only or a pseudonym is not normally accepted. Please limit your comment to 1,000 characters (including spaces), and also avoid epithets and personal attacks.

The following St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial appeared on August 15, 2011. It was strongly supportive of efforts by St. Charles County Councilman Joe Cronin’s efforts to promote smoke-free air. It makes reference to a study by the Center for Policy Analysis at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, published before the Illinois session wound up, which was influential in beating back efforts in that state to weaken the existing strong statewide smoke-free air law requiring casinos to be entirely smoke-free: there is no exception for the gaming floor, as has been done in Missouri and other states neighboring Illinois.

The editorial stated:

But the exemption bill stalled in a Senate committee after a new survey of Illinois gamblers shredded the claim that the smoke-free law was responsible for lower casino revenue.

Kathy Drea, Vice President of Advocacy for the American Lung Association in Illinois, confirmed this information was correct, and referred me to their web page at http://www.Smokefreeillinois.org/ where there’s a link to the study itself, titled ILLINOIS CASINO GAMBLERS PREFER SMOKE FREE CASINOS.     The study was published May 11, 2011, on the Center for Policy Analysis University of Massachusetts Dartmouth website.

Of the 7 comments submitted by readers to the Post-Dispatch on its editorial below, 7 are from two traditional opponents of smoke-free air, Bill Hannegan and Tony Palazzolo, and are reproduced below for reference.

Editorial: Clearing the smoky air between the river banks
By the Editorial Board | Posted: Monday, August 15, 2011 12:00 am | Comments (7 as of August 16, 2011, 11:47 am)

Heather O'Brien (from left), Steve Lloyd and Andrea Sharpe light up for the last time Wednesday night at The Cooler Bar and Grill in O'Fallon. The city's smoking ban went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

Tucked between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, St. Charles County is one of the most prosperous and fastest-growing counties in the metropolitan region. And although commercial and residential sprawl poses considerable challenges to effective governance, civic institutions seem to recognize the importance of tackling tough issues directly.
         But in dealing with the public health issue of tobacco smoke, St. Charles County lags behind the state of Illinois, which adjoins it along the Mississippi; neighboring St. Louis County; the city of St. Louis; and such forward-thinking communities as Clayton, Kirkwood, Creve Coeur and, within St. Charles County itself, Lake Saint Louis and O’Fallon.
         County Councilman Joe Cronin, R-St. Paul, has been working to change that. This spring, he championed a bill to allow county residents to vote on a reasonable tobacco control ordinance. It passed the council, 4-2, but County Executive Steve Ehlmann vetoed it.
         In his veto letter, Mr. Ehlmann objected to the bill’s exemptions for “the gaming floor of a casino, cigar bars and 20 percent of the hotel rooms.” The exemptions were inconsistent with the goal of protecting public health, Mr. Ehlmann said, and gave exempted facilities an unfair competitive advantage.

Mr. Cronin has not given up. He has invited representatives of Mr. Ehlmann’s office, the American Cancer Society, St. Charles’ Ameristar Casino, Smoke-Free St. Charles County and other council members to meet with him this week about altering the exemption provisions. He hopes to introduce a revised bill at the council meeting next month.
         “It’s a tough one,” Mr. Cronin told us. “I’m trying to walk a difficult line.” Public health is the bill’s principal objective, he said, but he also is sensitive to possible economic effects.
         Mr. Cronin said that Ameristar predicts it would lose 20 percent of its business and have to cut 320 jobs if a smoking ban applied to the casino floor. Supposedly, gamblers who smoke would move across the river to Harrah’s Casino in St. Louis County, where they can smoke on the gaming floor.
         Earlier this year, casino complaints about lost revenue got the attention of some Illinois legislators, and they introduced a bill to add casino exemptions to the state’s tough smoke-free law. Illinois casinos said they lost business to Indiana, Iowa and Missouri when the law took effect in January 2008.
But the exemption bill stalled in a Senate committee after a new survey of Illinois gamblers shredded the claim that the smoke-free law was responsible for lower casino revenue. Researchers at the Center for Policy Analysis at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth found that Illinois gamblers, including smokers, had cut back casino visits because of the worst recession since the Great Depression. The reasons they cited included the increased cost of living, the loss of jobs and income, falling behind on their bills and the cost of gasoline.
         Predictions of economic harm invariably appear wherever smoking control laws are proposed. Just as invariably, they fail to come true.
         As Mr. Cronin proceeds with his good-faith efforts to forge a consensus, he should keep public health uppermost. That should satisfy Mr. Ehlmann’s concerns and give voters the opportunity to add smoke-free indoor air to the benefits of living and working in St. Charles County

Here are the posted comments from Bill Hannegan and Tony Palazzolo, starting with the former and with a few of my observations added:

Bill Hannegan said on: August 16, 2011, 2:34 am

Joe Cronin is being such a phony drama queen about the smoking ban issue. Cronin ran against Cheryl Hibbeler as a smoking ban opponent. In a September 15, 2010 Post article he opined against a possible St. Charles County smoking ban: “It’s just another infringement on a lot of folks’ rights,”
. http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/stcharles/article_aac7bde8-c0fe-11df-9f68-00127992bc8b.html#ixzz1VArIra24 Now Cronin is publicly agonizing over how to push for a smoking ban without costing jobs and one that Ehlmann won’t veto. But Cronin knows full well that a smoking ban with an “over 21” exemption would pass the Council, would be treat all St. Charles County establishments equally, has a rational basis, and would cost very few jobs, if any. Such an exemption is in force in the smoking bans of Tennessee, Nevada and Georgia. Of course, the American Cancer Society wouldn’t like this exemption and for some reason Cronin is carrying water for them. Someone ought to call Cronin on this.

mogasp comment: Bill Hannegan keeps pushing this “over 21” exemption idea despite this being a health and safety issue. There’s no logical reason for it. A nighttime exemption for outdoor burning of yard waste in St. Louis and other local cities would make just as much sense.

Tony Palazzolo said on: August 16, 2011, 7:32 am

To use the word “shredded” the evidence casinos in Illinois were affected goes is not a reasonable even for an editorial. The study that they point to used slight of hand and a big headline to get mislead the public. They “proved” that only attendance was not as affected by the ban. Yet they don’t talk about revenue which the basis of the claims. The study done by the Fed said that revenue not attendance was affected. The bottom line is that revenue and not attendance is what creates and sustains jobs, profits and taxes revenue. Either the editorial board didn’t read the report or they are trying to mislead the public.


Bill Hannegan said on: August 16, 2011, 11:47 am

The Dartmouth research was just a survey paid for by the Illinois Lung Association, not a real economic study of Illinois casino revenues such as the one conducted by St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank economists which blamed the Illinois smoking ban for a 20 percent decline in casino revenues.

mogasp comment: The Dartmouth study, which looks at attendance, is valid as far as I can tell. It’s subheading provides helpful background:
Decline in state’s gross gaming revenues attributable to other factors such as recession and declining competitiveness in region’s gaming market according to poll conducted by university gaming experts

7 responses to “2011-08-15 P-D Editorial: “Clearing the smoky air between the river banks”

  1. Mogasp, you dastardly churl! (I hope that doesn’t count as an epithet!)

    I’d question the very first line of the Dartmouth study referenced:

    conventional wisdom among casino industry executives nationwide is that banning smoking at casinos results in fewer casino visitations

    I don’t know if I’ve generally seen casino executives saying overall numbers of visitations at their casinos would go down enough to say it is “conventional wisdom.” If my impression is wrong I’m happy to see counterexamples.

    I think they speak more about revenues: noting that smokers are heavier gamblers and would be more likely to stay away. Given that the study showed 24% would be LESS likely to visit after a ban (with 24% roughly equaling population % of smokers) I’d say their concerns were well founded. The “more visiting” 45% might well be people who simply go to enjoy the glitz, lights and food (expenses, rather than income, for casinos).

    Michael J. McFadden,
    Author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains”

  2. A separate post, as a separate issue:

    I’d venture to say that in all fairness the 45% figure is exaggerated. Why? 3 reasons:

    1) It’s clearly more politically correct and desirable to give an answer to ANY survey that would indicate disapproval of smoking: in this case by choosing “less often.” Saying “I don’t care” implies either approval of slaughtering innocent people or that you’re “not very smart” and don’t know the DDD (Deadly Danger of Death) of entering a smoking casino.

    2) While we might disagree, my own opinion would be that only half that 45% would actually alter behavior. But if smoking is truly as addictive as claimed, a sizeable proportion of the 24% “less likely” visitors would carry their survey opinion over to real life.

    3) The survey pool was defined as those who’d visited once in the preceding year. 1x/yr visitors are not the casinos bread and butter, & the survey results might have been quite different if it surveyed the “several times a year or more” pool.

  3. It’s too late to attempt much of a comment, but this struck me as a post I can’t complain about. Thanks for running a very fair and civil blog, Mr. Pion.

  4. I echo Bill on that Martin! I no longer feel you are a dastardly churl. Hmm… how about a very nice churl? Awww, heck, ok, we’ll leave the churl at the door.


    mogasp reply: I make it a policy to resist the temptation to disallow nice comments, in the interests of balance. 0:-)

  5. No surprise that Kathy Drea would take credit for stopping a casino exemption citing a survey she paid for. But we heard from the start that Burke’s exemption was not likely to pass the senate.

    Mr. Pion, once you have a chance to read Drea’s survey, please tell us if you think the Post’s verb “shredded” is a bit of an overstatement.

    Finally, would it be possible at some point for one of your casino study authors to answer questions about its methodology?

  6. Notice that both the MOGASP study and ALA survey simply pretend that research published by the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank does not exist. This is a big red flag in both cases.

  7. One should visit http://www.mgc.dps.mo.gov/EconomicAnalysis.pdf Here, MO Gambling Commission provides data over the last 3 years that revenues in central and western MO casinos did not drop. It is difficult to compare Eastern MO casino revenue because we have 2 new ones, and smokers migrating from IL,,, so it’s impossible to gauge the impact of the recession in Eastern MO… but the central and western regions of MO have no new casinos, or migration from Il,,yet their revenues remained steady despite the recession. The hypotheses set forth in the Dartmouth and Wash U./MOGASP simply cannot explain why Il gamblers would be sensitive to a recession while central and western MO gamblers are not.

Leave a Reply to Bill Hannegan Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s