Majestic Star Casino employees wait to enter city council chambers

Majestic Star feels heat from Smoke-Free campaign

Contributed By:The 411 News

Health vs. wealth of casino workers is the issue

Peter Liguori and twenty-five of his Majestic Star Casinos’ staff came to Tuesday night’s Gary City Council meeting defending the state law that allows customers to smoke on casino floors while a coalition of health agencies and advocates under the banner of “Smoke-Free in the G” – G stands for Gary – showed up to support an ordinance that would let the city set its own smoking policy.

Ordinance 2017-86, sponsored by Sixth District Councilwoman LaVetta Sparks-Wade, seeks to extend the city’s smoking ban in municipal buildings to all workplaces and public spaces, and would include the city’s casinos and the dangers of second-hand smoke to casino workers.

“There’s a lot of passion and emotion in this debate,” said Liguori, Majestic Star’s CEO who said a family member died of lung cancer.

It’s also an issue of revenues to the city and salaries for casino employees, Liguori explained to the council. “Majestic Star Casinos are among the city’s top 5 employers with a third of our 1000 employees being Gary residents. The smoking ban would be a catastrophe, leading to a 500,000 reduction in our customer trips.”

For the casinos, he said, that would mean a decrease of $50 million in revenues and 375 jobs lost. Gary would see a decline of gaming tax revenues of over $3 million a year. Lake County would lose $400,000 in gaming tax revenues yearly. And property tax revenues would also decrease.

Liguori was followed by Majestic Star’s casino workers from Gary, who testified about their loss of incomes and the effects of those lost jobs on their communities. They also complained that Majestic Star was the only casino targeted and the ban would force customers to nearby competitors.

Smoke-Free’s Lori Latham applauded the casinos for creating jobs but condemned them for exposing workers to cancer-causing pollutants that lead to heart disease and diabetes. “We owe it to them to make sure they are working in a safe environment, an environment that doesn’t make them sick. I would like to see our residents not have to compromise their health for jobs.”

Danielle Patterson, of the American Heart Association and a Smoke-Free partner, said Majestic Star is following the scare tactics many casino operators have used to push back against smoking bans. “They try to intimidate the council with fear, blowing up numbers. They intimidate the public saying we’re going to have to close; you’re going to lose jobs. They don’t tell the real story.”

At the ordinance’s next hearing November 20 in the council’s finance committee, both sides will get more than the 3 minutes per speaker to defend their positions.

And if the city council approves the ordinance, Majestic Star Casinos would likely follow with a lawsuit.

Majestic Star Casino employees wait to enter city council chambers

Smoke-Free partners outside city council chambers

The two sides fill the seats inside the council chambers

Story Posted:11/08/2017

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