St. Louis smoking advocate draws ban to gaming commission’s attention

If you’re familiar at all with St. Louis history, then you’ve probably heard the name Bill Hannegan. His grandfather was co-owner and team president of the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1940s and chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Twenty years before that, his great-grandfather was the chief of detectives for the St. Louis Police Department, busting mob bosses.

But Hannegan has become more well known in recent years as a vocal opponent to smoking bans. One newspaper article labeled him the “drag king” last year. He is an organizer of Keep St. Louis Free, which describes itself as a “group that fights to protect the personal freedoms and property rights of St. Louisans from dumb government intervention and harassment.”

He’s been a huge opponent of smoking bans and if you Google his name, you’ll see he’s been quoted often and featured prominently in stories about the bans that have taken place across the state.

And now Cape Girardeau has come to his attention.

Late last week, Hannegan sent a letter to the Missouri Gaming Commission. Here’s what the letter said:

Missouri Gaming Commissioners,

Please find attached the proposed smoking ban for Cape Girardeau, which goes on the ballot in April. It is very likely to pass since, nationally, smoking bans have only been defeated four times at the ballot box. The ordinance specifically includes casinos.

Please also find attached the Illinois House Bill 1846, which lifts the smoking ban on Illinois casinos. Sponsored by Rep. Daniel Burke of Chicago, it has a good chance of passing this session.

Commissioners, a smoke-free Cape Girardeau casino could end up competing with smoking-allowed Illinois and Missouri casinos. I don’t believe the Missouri Department of Economic Development took this possibility into account when they compiled the report released today.

I wanted you to have full information as you consider whether or not to award a 13th casino license.


Bill Hannegan

I’m wondering if this will have any impact on Cape Girardeau’s chances to be awarded the 13th license. The decision, remember, is to be made Wednesday. I’ll be checking on this for a possible story for Tuesday’s Southeast Missourian.

In the meantime, feel free to post your thoughts below.

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