2014-05-21 P-D: “Move by Legislature could exempt St. Charles casino from smoking ban”

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Yet more efforts, supported by St. Charles elected officials, to ensure smoking continues in its Ameristar Casino over unfounded fears that revenues would drop if it were to go smoke-free. The bill, SB672, should be vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon.

Move by Legislature could exempt St. Charles casino from smoking ban
May 21, 2014 12:15 am • By Mark Schlinkmann mschlinkmann@post-dispatch.com 636-255-7233

ST. CHARLES • City officials may soon have a way to shield the Ameristar Casino from any future countywide smoking ban, thanks to action by the Missouri Legislature before it adjourned.
         If Gov. Jay Nixon signs the newly passed bill, St. Charles would be added to a list of cities exempt from county health rules if they set up their own municipal health departments.

Mayor Sally Faith

Mayor Sally Faith

         “It’s the opportunity to have something to fall back on,” Mayor Sally Faith said Tuesday.
         Faith worries that the millions of dollars in city tax revenue from the casino would be reduced if smoking is prohibited and attendance dropped.
         Troy Stremming, an executive with Ameristar’s parent company, said it supports the city’s bill “if they believe this is important for the future growth of the city.”

Pat Lindsey, TFMo STL

Pat Lindsey, TFMo STL

         Anti-smoking activist Pat Lindsey decried the Legislature’s move.
         “It’s beyond me how they can go backwards like this,” said Lindsey, the volunteer executive director of Tobacco-Free St. Louis. “From a health standpoint, what are they thinking?”
         Under current law, cities with at least 75,000 residents with their own health agencies are exempt from county rules to “enhance the public health.” The bill adds St. Charles, which had 65,794 residents in the 2010 census, to that category.
         Originally sponsored by Rep. Doug Funderburk, R-St. Peters, the provision was tacked on to a lengthy bill on local government issues across Missouri.
         Ameristar has said the St. Charles casino could lose 25 percent of its business if smoking was barred but still allowed at its competitors.

Councilman Joe Cronin 203 300 T 101 150

Councilman Joe Cronin

         A smoking ban advocate on the St. Charles County Council — Joe Cronin, R-St. Paul — says such estimates are overblown. He also said setting up a city health agency would cost “a lot of money.”
         Cronin has tried unsuccessfully for various bans, sometimes via health ordinances and others through county charter amendments. It’s unclear whether the Legislature’s bill could exempt the city from charter measures.
         In 2012, the county put on the ballot a two-question smoking package, but it was blocked by a judge.
         Voters first would have been asked to decide on banning smoking in public places. A second question would have exempted places barring people under age 21, such as the casino and bars.
         City officials worried that voters might pass the ban but reject the exemption measure.
         Cronin’s most recent bill would ban smoking in public places except those barring people under age 21, exempting Ameristar. That bill died last week but he plans to reintroduce it later this year.
         The bill passed by the Legislature is SB672.

One response to “2014-05-21 P-D: “Move by Legislature could exempt St. Charles casino from smoking ban”

  1. If Cronin feels that the 25% loss figure is “overblown” and that the casino really doesn’t have much loss to worry about, why doesn’t he state what loss is acceptable for the taxpayers to pay in lost revenue, and then draw up a legal agreement with the pro-ban Councilors and Smoke-Free St. Louis, and the chief personnel of Smoke-Free St. Louis to cover whatever losses occur beyond what they claim will occur (out of their own personal, as well as organizational, pockets.)

    The opposition from the casino would largely disappear (They’d completely disappear if the Glantzian notion of ZERO losses were the guarantee point.), the taxpayers would heave a sigh of relief once they weren’t the ones left holding the tax-shortfall bag, and the ban would be a fait accompli!

    Of course they’d only support that if they believe they’re telling the truth…

    – MJM
    P.S. MoGasp: you might want to offer your posters this VERY handy link for your blog: http://charactercounttool.com/

    P.P.S. 998 chars!

    mogasp comment: Thanks for the character count tool. If it works I’ll try and remember to add it.

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