2013-02-13 P-D: “State bill would protect smoking at Lemay and Maryland Heights casinos”

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It would be nice if state Representatives were informed by other than casino interests when charging off with legislation to protect casinos from phantom concerns about loss of revenue should they go smoke-free.

This was addressed in a peer-reviewed study of which I was fortunate be last coauthor of six, published in the peer-reviewed international journal, Tobacco Control, on June 14, 2011, titled:

Exempting casinos from the Smoke-free Illinois Act will not bring patrons back: they never left

The primary author was Dr. Jenine K. Harris at the George Warren School of Social Work, Washington University, St. Louis.

I posted a blog with a long introduction about it, after sending it to David Nicklaus at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, who featured it in an article he wrote, published on June 28, 2011:

Smoking ban didn’t hurt Illinois casinos, study says.

Rep. Bill Otto, D-St. Charles, the sponsor of this ill-conceived bill, is quoted below as saying:

“These counties will fall one at a time,” Otto said. “It will really be detrimental to whichever casino goes nonsmoking first. This will just kill them.”

The full story appears below, and is depressing in terms of the comments of other area legislators, and their apparent lack of knowledge on the subject.

State bill would protect smoking at Lemay and Maryland Heights casinos
9 hours ago • By Mark Schlinkmann mschlinkmann@post-dispatch.com 636-255-723318

An effort is under way in the Missouri Legislature to keep local governments from imposing tougher smoking restrictions for casinos than what their competitors face.
The bill would prohibit local smoking bans at casinos if smoking is still allowed at a competing casino within 75 miles. It is sponsored by Rep. Bill Otto, D-St. Charles, whose district includes the Hollywood and Ameristar casinos.
         The measure would bar the St. Louis County Council from ending the exemptions from the county’s smoking ban for Hollywood in Maryland Heights and River City Casino in Lemay. The council has been considering in recent weeks removing those and most other exemptions.
         Hollywood, formerly known as Harrah’s, is just across the Missouri River from Ameristar in St. Charles, where there is no smoking ban.
         The state proposal also would prevent St. Charles County from enacting a smoking ban for Ameristar unless one was already in place at Hollywood and other St. Louis-area casinos.
         Otto says he wants to keep one area casino from gaining a temporary advantage over another.
         Eventually, he said, he expects that all local communities in the St. Louis area will enact bans on smoking in casinos, bars and other public places with few exemptions, although he opposes such restrictions on businesses.
         “These counties will fall one at a time,” Otto said. “It will really be detrimental to whichever casino goes nonsmoking first. This will just kill them.”
         Otto said his bill would allow cities or a county “to do whatever they want fully understanding they won’t affect the casinos immediately.”
         Lobbyists for Ameristar and Penn National Gaming, which owns Hollywood, said they supported Otto’s measure but did not ask him to sponsor it. Otto has not received any campaign contributions from casinos or their executives, according to the most recent reports.
         “It places us all on a level playing field,” said Troy Stremming, an Ameristar executive.
         Pat Lindsey, executive director of the Tobacco-Free St. Louis Coalition, opposes the bill and other so-called “trigger” measures tying action on smoking in one jurisdiction to that in another.
         “It just kind of holds everything back,” she said. “We just need to get rid of the smoke.”
         Also opposed is Misty Snodgrass, who lobbies for the Cancer Action Network, an affiliate of the American Cancer Society.
         “Local communities should be able to pass whatever strong ordinance they want to pass,” she said.
         St. Louis County Councilman Mike O’Mara, who is sponsoring the pending proposal to eliminate most exemptions to the county smoking ban, said he needed to review Otto’s bill before taking a position on it.
         “If it’s a fairness bill to keep everyone on the same page, I could live with that,” said O’Mara, D-Florissant.
         At the St. Charles County Council, the main advocate of unsuccessful smoking ban legislation last year — Councilman Joe Cronin, R-St. Paul — said he didn’t object to Otto’s goal. However, he said the mileage radius should be reduced, perhaps to 25 miles.
         St. Charles County has no countywide ban, but its council has considered several versions in recent years and is likely to do so again.
         Cronin noted that at one point, he sponsored a smoking ban bill with an exemption for Ameristar that would expire when other casinos on the Missouri side of the metro area went smoke-free.
         A statewide smoking ban in Illinois already covers Metro East casinos.
         Cronin also has fought with Ameristar over another version.
         That proposal would have let voters decide separately on a smoking ban and exempting places where all customers and workers are over 21, such as casinos and bars.
         The council voted last year to put that on the November ballot, but the county elections director removed it because of technical errors.
         Cronin said he planned to try again at the next countywide election but was still working on details of the legislation. The earliest it would likely be on the ballot is August 2014.
         Meanwhile, two other area lawmakers — Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, and Rep. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur — recently filed bills seeking a statewide smoking ban. Similar measures have gone nowhere in past sessions.
         Otto’s state bill also would affect the Lumière Place casino in St. Louis. Officials with Pinnacle Entertainment, which owns both the Lumière and River City facilities and has announced plans to buy Ameristar, could not be reached for comment.
         The state proposal also would apply to competing casinos in the Kansas City area.
         Lumière’s exemption from St. Louis’ smoking ban already is tied by law to its competitors. The city’s smoking ordinance says the Lumière exemption would be phased out once smoking bans are imposed on casinos in St. Louis and St. Charles counties.
         Otto, as a freshman Democrat in the heavily Republican House, typically would have an uphill climb getting a bill passed in his first year in Jefferson City.
         To build support, he’s lined up as co-sponsors House members from several other districts around the state that also have casinos. In all, he has 11 co-sponsors, seven Republicans and four Democrats.
         Stremming, the Ameristar lobbyist, said, “I’m hopeful a good idea like this can get some momentum.”

8 responses to “2013-02-13 P-D: “State bill would protect smoking at Lemay and Maryland Heights casinos”

  1. MoGASP, you wrote, “It would be nice if state Representatives were informed by other than casino interests when charging off with legislation to protect casinos from phantom concerns about loss of revenue should they go smoke-free”

    Don’t you mean, “It would be nice if the CASINO people were informed” about their revenues? After all, it’s their business, and their possible losses, and their lobbying effort. I would imagine they probably employ people who are familiar with how their business works.

    I don’t think I actually know the Casino folks who’d be affected in MO. It’s possible they’re all just brand new to the business and don’t understand how it works. If you could contact the Casino owners in places like Illinois, Colorado and elsewhere who have been making more money since their bans maybe they could educate the ones in MO, and then the MO Casinos would support the ban!

    Hey! The AC Casinos had a full ban for a month a while back. Maybe they could share their story too!

    – MJM

    mogasp reply: If I thought casino operators would listen to me I’d be happy to talk to them.

  2. Of course the real issue is freedom. Freedom to run your own business and to cater to the clientele of their choice. Of course the anti-smokers demand that everyone cater to them. With Missouri’s recent attack on gun owners and Stanton Glantz’s attack on the TEA Parties I see waking up to Nanny Statism.

    mogasp reply: Of course, you conveniently forget that you’re demanding freedom to pollute a business in which workers are employed. Why should that be allowed? Why should employees have to endure unsafe working conditions or ones which could sicken them? There’s no reason at all, except to satisfy the tobacco industry and its supporters..

  3. Of course you conveniently ignore the fact that working anywhere is a voluntary act. Al jobs have risks, some more then others. You also ignore the risks associated with second hand smoke are based on the highly questionable methodology of Meta-analysis. You should read the “Dangers of agenda-driven bias” section of Wiki. Of course I can provide plenty of documentation on this.

    mogasp reply: Your arguments are neither new nor convincing. Sorry!

  4. MOGASP, your arguments are neither new nor convincing either. You’ve yet to even convince the Casino Queen that they did not lose revenue because of the IL ban. You’ve yet to convince countless hospitality establishment owners in St. Louis City and County that they did not lose business either.

    mogasp comment: Some people still believe humans appeared on the earth ca. 10,000 years ago too.

  5. MoGasp, if you’re telling the truth about your belief, why don’t you offer to cover, at least to the fullest extent of your pocketbook possible, any losses the Casinos experience due to a smoking ban? You could sign legal documentation, committing your assets to it, enforceable by courts, and it would give your arguments a lot more weight. Now THAT would certainly be a “new and convincing argument” would it not?

    – MJM
    P.S. Why wouldn’t Casino owners at places making more money now that they have bans listen to you? Wouldn’t they be grateful to you for your efforts on their behalf? Heck, if your beliefs are accurate, they should take you out and wine you and dine you for advice on how to keep their bans in place!

    mogasp reply: I’m not sure why I have to do any of the things you suggest. Firstly, why should I lie? Secondly, there’s no reason to give casinos or any other place of employment a pass on a public health issue. Only when it comes to secondhand smoke are there such demands from those who are thereby essentially supporting the tobacco industry.
    The private property argument being made is also bogus, given these are places into which the pubic is invited for purposes of commerce, and/or which are places of employment, and already subject to numerous governmental safety and health restrictions.
    The research to which you refer, which was as objective as possible, should stand on its merits. Others can repeat it independently, which it’s desirable to do to confirm the conclusions.

  6. It is not my job to prove that second hand smoke is public risk. You have no conclusive proof, just reports based on the flawed methodology of meta-analysis. If there were proof would you not be able to show lists of all those winning lawsuits for exposure to second hand smoke? Care to show them. Again I ask, do you believe any law should be passed based on science that would not hold up in a court of law?

  7. MOGASP,, it’s you who is in the minority concerning casinos and smoking ban losses. Both the IL gaming commission and the MO gaming commission, the Federal Reserve, and lastly, all the accountants at the casinos find bans hurt business. It’s you who think man appeared on the earth 10,000 years ago, not us. What did the people at the Queen say when you told them they did not lose business??? Did any management or worker at the Queen ever thank you for supporting the ban there? Do any management or workers at any MO casinos ask you to work hard to get smoking banned there? Do any owners or workers ask you to work really hard to remove St. Louis CO bar exemptions? If not, then who ARE you working for?

  8. Mogasp, I wasn’t suggesting you were lying. I was suggesting that you can make a great contribution toward your goal though by backing it up as I suggested. I don’t see why you wouldn’t? In terms of the public health issue, I may be mistaken, but I thought it was you who brought up the economic question — thereby supporting the antismoking industry. :>

    Re “governmental safety & health restrictions” — I’d be VERY happy to see OSHA restrictions applied and respected at casinos, restaurants and bars… would you?

    Also: I’m not sure which research you were referring to, but as I noted, if the ban has been good for the casinos they should certainly want to help you out: why do you think they wouldn’t listen to you after you helped them make more money?

    – MJM

    mogasp: Thanks to those who have submitted approved comments but THIS POST IS NOW CLOSED TO NEW COMMENTS.

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