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Gary Casinos May Ban Smoking

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A casino giant hopes to snuff out a proposed smoking ban in Gary Indiana.

CBS 2's Dorothy Tucker has the battle of health versus wealth.

The Majestic Star is Gary's largest entertainment venue. It attracts 1.6 million visitors a year, employing 1,000 workers and pouring millions into the city's tax coffers.

But with a proposed ordinance to ban smoking in casinos Majestic manager Rodney Phillipe worries about the future.

"Our nearest competitors are within sight distance and we think this could drive our customers to our nearest competitors," said Phillipe.

The nearest competitor is literally across the lake. It's Ameristar in East Chicago.

Hammond's Horseshoe is only a few miles away.

Casinos that allow smoking are important to customers like Deena Tiggs.

"Because when I play, I eat ice and I smoke cigarettes," said Tiggs.

Majestic fears a 35% drop in customers that will lead to a 3 million dollar decline in tax revenues to Gary and force layoffs of at least 350 people.

At a recent city council meeting Majestic workers expressed their concerns.

"People are not going to have jobs to work and take care of their families," said one worker.

Lori Latham was also at that meeting. She represents the coalition pushing for the smoking ban.

"I would like to see our residents not have to compromise their health for their job," said Latham.

She says it's not just casino workers. Latham says she's also concerned about city employees who moonlight at the casinos and breathe in the secondhand smoke.

Their health care is covered by the city.

"The unhealthier you are, the more expensive the cost is," said Latham. "And that cost is ultimately passed down to the taxpayer."

The Gary city council has scheduled another public hearing for next Tuesday on the smoking ban. At that meeting, the council could take a vote.

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