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The ordinance being considered by St. Charles city council is motivated not from a desire to protect public health and welfare or exposed employees from secondhand smoke, but by a fear over profits if the Ameristar Casino were to go smoke-free. That, plus an obsession with private property rights when it comes to this major public health issue, is a consistent theme when it comes to many legislators in St. Charles County.
The fact that the available evidence shows that making the casino smoke-free would likely not affect profits is also consistently ignored.
If voters were ever given the chance the vote on whether to make places like the casino and restaurants smoke-free they would likely favor the idea, but legislators and the Ameristar Casino fear such democratic suggestions.This was a hot topic towards the latter part of last year when Missouri GASP was providing legal and financial help for Don Young in a lawsuit to put the issue on the ballot. The following article featured that effort:
Below is reporter Mark Schlinkmann’s recent St. Louis Post-Dispatch article:
Exempting casino a key goal as St. Charles council weighs smoking ban
April 10, 2013 5:00 pm • By Mark Schlinkmann firstname.lastname@example.org 636-255-7233
ST. CHARLES • The City Council may impose a smoking ban by the end of the year, but it probably wouldn’t apply to the Ameristar Casino’s gambling floor.
Council members have decided to hold public hearings next month before acting.
The council also will consider other exemptions, such as for bars, veterans halls and bowling alleys. But no decision has been made on any.
Shielding the casino from a smoking ban is a goal of Mayor Sally Faith. Ameristar, which channels millions of dollars in tax revenue each year to the city, fears losing business to other area casinos where smoking is allowed.
“We need the revenue, we need to keep the city services for the people,” said Faith, who initiated the council discussion.
Passage could blunt efforts at the St. Charles County Council to impose a countywide smoking prohibition that might include Ameristar.
Faith said that if the City Council approved a smoking ordinance, it could be in effect by January. She wants to follow up with a citywide public vote in 2015 on adding similar provisions to the city charter. That would give residents time to decide how the ban was working, she said.
The County Council voted last year to put before voters a two-proposition countywide package, but it was blocked by an election official and a judge.
Voters would have been asked whether to ban smoking in workplaces and enclosed public places with no exceptions. A second ballot question was on exempting places restricting customers and employees to people 21 and older, covering the casino and bars.
The sponsor, County Councilman Joe Cronin of St. Paul, wants to try again next year but hasn’t decided what to include.
City Councilman Dave Beckering said the city should pass its own measure even though he opposed smoking bans as restricting business owners.
“I would prefer to do nothing, but given the situation with the county, I think we’re better off if we do something first,” he said.
Beckering said small bar owners should be treated the same as the casino.
“Someone has to help protect the rights of business owners,” he said.
Beckering said he favored all exemptions on a laundry list of possibilities submitted by Faith. One would allow smoking at restaurants with enclosed separately ventilated areas.
Most other council members at a meeting this week didn’t specify exemptions they favored but agreed there should be some.
Council President Laurie Feldman said she didn’t like to legislate people’s choices, “but I will not have someone else, i.e. the county, telling us how we’re supposed to do something.”
However, she acknowledged that a city ban with exemptions wouldn’t preclude the county from imposing a stronger law countywide.
Details on hearings have yet to be announced. Feldman wants a chart displayed showing casino tax data and “how much their (residents’) taxes are going to go up if we don’t have that revenue.”
Meanwhile, a St. Louis County Council member has yet to decide how to proceed with his bill repealing a smoking ban exemption for the Hollywood Casino across the Missouri River from Ameristar.
Statewide smoking ban bills are stalled in the Legislature. So is a measure to ban tougher local smoking restrictions for casinos than what their competitors face.