There were impassioned pleas against placing a countywide smoking ban on the ballot in St. Charles County, including one by state Rep. Kathie Conway, R-District 14.
“A smoking ban would not mean St. Charles is smoke-free, it would mean it is less free,” Conway told the council.
But the St. Charles County Council Tuesday night voted 4-2 to place a smoking ban bill on the November 2012 ballot.
Councilmen Joe Brazil, R-District 2, of Defiance, and Councilman Jerry Daugherty, D-District 6, of Portage de Sioux, voted against the issue. Councilman Paul Wynn, R-District 4, of O'Fallon, who has opposed the ban, was absent. Daugherty said he objects to the exemption for casinos.
Councilman Terry Hollander, R-District 5, of St. Charles, amended the bill to change it from the August 2012 ballot to the November 2012 ballot so more people would vote on the issue.
“I’m a believer in the silent majority,” said Councilman Joe Cronin, R-District 1, of St. Paul, who wrote the bill. “And the majority of the people in this county want to vote on this issue.
Conway said property owners and smokers have rights, even if they’re in the minority.
“We’re a republic, not a democracy,” she said. “We’re set up that way to defend the rights of the individual, even when it’s not a popular issue.”
About 15 speakers lined up, taking turns lambasting and praising the smoking ban.
Those supporting the ban were more soft-spoken, but spoke up. There was Don Young, who spoke using a voice box due to his throat cancer surgeries.
“I know I did this to myself,” Young said. “But other people breathing in secondhand smoke can’t always get away from it.”
Carolie Owens talked about losing her father to emphysema and said she worried when her daughter being exposed to secondhand smoke while working her way through college as a waitress.
There were cynical statements. Brazil, the council chairman, asked, “If this is a health issue, why is the casino exempt? If this is a health issue, why wait until 2012? We could vote on it right now.”
Brazil also asked, “If this is a health issue, why isn’t OSHA protecting workers from secondhand smoke?”
Cronin said that only the gambling floor at the casino has an exemption.
He amended the measure to state that St. Charles gambling facilities — Ameristar Casino is the only one — will no longer be exempt from the smoking if St. Louis, Jefferson, Madison and St. Clair counties and the city of St. Louis do not exempt casinos from smoking bans.
After the meeting, anti-smoking ban activist Bill Hannegan, of St. Louis, said the provision was useless because the city of St. Louis will never ban smoking on casinos.
Cronin said he added the casino exemption to protect the 1,600 jobs at Ameristar, because Harrah’s Casino right across the river has a smoking exemption in St. Louis County.
“What he doesn’t seem to think about is the 1,600 places that will lose one or more jobs if this goes into effect,” said Terry Alexander, after the meeting.
“Let’s face the facts, individual bars will faced a reduced number of paying customers if this goes into effect,” said Dominic King, of St. Charles County. King said many of his friends own or work in bars and restaurants. “Who’s going to lose?”
Both sides – those supporting smoking bans and those against them – criticized the exemption for casinos in St. Charles County. is the only casino in St. Charles County.
During the meeting, Alexander told the council that Ameristar Casino already has unfair advantages over local bars, clubs and restaurants because it can serve drinks until 3 a.m. while other establishments must close at 1 a.m., has looser advertising restrictions and can offer gambling.
“It’s interesting to me that the only organization that isn’t going to lose money in this is the government because they’re in it with the casinos,” said Alexander, owner of Harvest Lanes and Cave Spring Lanes.
Hollander said St Charles County gets no money from casinos except for sales tax because the casino’s agreement is with the city of St. Charles, not the county.
The city of St. Charles gets about $14 million a year in casino revenue.