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Missouri County to make casinos smoke-free

Hollywood Casino in St Louis could soon be smoke free

St. Louis County could be the first in Missouri to implement a smoking ban for casinos.

As smoke-free casinos spark debate across the US, the county will be the first to take a stand if the measure is passed. But the proposal is currently under discussion and must be approved by the County Council before becoming law.

St. Louis County has a ban on indoor smoking that has been in effect since 2011 but currently excludes casinos. This exemption poses a significant risk to the health of both patrons and employees, according to Dr. Kanika Cunningham, the county health department director.

Councilman Dennis Hancock expressed concern that the proposed bill might divert customers to casinos in nearby counties where smoking is still permitted. It is worth noting that while smoking is prohibited in casinos in Illinois, it is allowed in casinos throughout the rest of Missouri.

But Cunningham argued at the council committee meeting that smoking bans in casinos in other states did not lead to a decrease in revenue. He referred to a report from gaming consulting firm C3 Gaming in 2022 that studied casinos operated by American Indian tribes that opened smoke-free post-pandemic.

“What we do know is that when casinos went smoke-free, they did not lose revenue,” he said.

However, the general manager and vice president of Hollywood Casino in Maryland Heights Michael Jerlecki disagreed with the sentiment.

“A total smoking ban that only applies to casinos in St. Louis County would place us at a considerable competitive disadvantage to nearby casinos in Missouri, risk hundreds of good-paying jobs, and substantially impact the tax revenue and significant economic activity our properties generate,” he said.

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