Dealers need 1 more vote to keep smoking ban

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) - October 22, 2008 The council voted 5-4 last week to delay the ban for one year due to the economic crisis.

But with a final vote scheduled for Monday on the council's stated intent to delay the ban, casino workers are arming themselves with every argument they can muster to try to flip one vote their way, and salvage the ban the council approved in April.

"When you win 9-to-nothing, you usually win," said Art Kalen, a dealer at Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino. "We laid down the fight and let down our guard because we thought we won."

But two weeks ago, under pressure from the city's 11 casinos who claimed the crashing economy warranted putting off the ban for a year, the council changed its mind. It could not, however, stop a temporary ban from taking effect on Oct. 15 that is scheduled to last at least 12 days.

Kim Hesse, a dealer at Caesars Atlantic City, said dealers' tips are actually up since the temporary smoking ban took effect a week ago.

"It's up by about $3 or $4 an hour," she said. "This has gone so smoothly; no one is complaining."

Likewise, Gary Noa, another Trump Plaza dealer, said dealer tips there are up by at least $1.50 an hour on average.

Ed Jones, a beverage server at Harrah's Resort Atlantic City, said his casino has not experienced a loss of customers in the seven days that the temporary ban has been in effect.

"I work in what had been the smoking section, and that room is just as full as when they had smoking there," he said.

Executives of all 11 casinos have declined numerous requests by The Associated Press since last Thursday to reveal their revenue figures since the temporary smoking ban took effect.

Workers are also pushing hard on the health angle.

"If you're a felon and you go to prison, you're going to be in an environment that's smoke-free," he said. "If you're a cat or a dog and you get taken to a shelter, you'll be in a smoke-free environment. At Guantanamo Bay, even al-Qaida terrorists are in smoke-free cells. They all have more rights than we do."

The council declined to hear more public comment on the proposed one-year delay at Wednesday night's meeting, and indicated it would take a final vote until a special meeting Monday.

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