Michael Calhoun

ST. CHARLES (KMOX) – There’s a haze hanging around attempts to get a smoking ban on the ballot next year in St. Charles County.

At the first public hearing on the matter, bar owners like James Mayes asked — if Ameristar gets a special vote, why don’t they?

“If you’re going to do an individual exemption on the ballot, I’d like my bar placed on there as well, next to Ameristar, so every voter can vote individually on my location, along with every other bar in St. Charles County,” he said.

“We’re confident that the voters of St. Charles County will endorse a smoke-free environment, just as the voters overwhelmingly did in St. Louis County, O’Fallon and Lake St. Louis,” countered Sharon Lee of BJC HealthCare.

The hearing brought out some big name constituents, including the one whose name is on the tips of everybody’s tounge.

“We’ve invested several hundred million dollars in our facility, and believe that we should be allowed to conduct our business as we see fit,” Ameristar Senior Vice President and General Manager Jim Franke said. Losing smokers, he predicted, would mean a 20-percent cut in business.

“Several hundred jobs are at stake in our facility. Millions in tax revenue is going to be lost. $2.6 million just in the city of St. Charles.”

Councilman Joe Cronin hoped his latest proposal, allowing voters to decide separately on the ban itself and on a casino exemption, would solidify council support and avoid a County Executive veto. But he was thrown a curveball when, while during council discussion, his colleague Nancy Matheny said she’s now only in favor of a statewide smoking ban. She’d previously been a supporter of a county-specific ban.

Without her support, or that of another council member, the measures would be one vote short, in a vote scheduled for two weeks.

(KMOX © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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