GARY — A proposed smoking ban in Gary faces strong opposition from the head of the city's two casinos, but proponents said the workers there deserve smoke-free air.
More than a couple of dozen workers from the Majestic Star LLC's two casinos in Gary appeared at Tuesday's council meeting where the proposed ordinance was brought forth. Also appearing were a number of members of Smoke-Free in the G, who are supporting the ordinance.
The ordinance would ban smoking in all public places and workplaces.
The proposed ordinance, as is standard, was referred to committee. The finance commission will discuss the ordinance at a meeting at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 20 at the Gary City Hall and it could come up for a vote at the next scheduled council meeting at 6 p.m. Nov. 21.
Peter Liguori, CEO of Majestic Star, said the smoking ban would be a catastrophe for the casinos, the city and the casinos' employees. He said customers wanting to smoke could drive five minutes away to the East Chicago or Hammond casinos.
He said based on analysis, the Gary casinos could see a reduction of more than a half million trips a year to the casino and a loss in gaming revenue of 35 percent annually. Liguori said the city could lose $3 million annually in gaming tax revenue from the casinos. In addition, he said, 375 of the company's approximately 1,000 workers could lose their jobs.
Lori Latham, the campaign coordinator of the Smoke-Free in the G group, spoke highly of the workers at the casinos and of the benefits provided from the casinos. At the same time, she told the city council that "we owe it to them (workers) to make sure they are working in a good environment."
She said having healthier employees is also good for a company's bottom line. Liguori indicated casino officials were aware of the health issues with smoking and strive to have a good working environment for employees. The casino operation does have a smoke free area.
After the meeting, City Council President Ron Brewer, D-Gary, said he thought some type of compromise could be reached on the issue.