PA Casino Workers Gather At State Capital, Call For Passage Of Non-Smoking Bill

Written By Corey Sharp on June 12, 2024
Black shoe crushing a pack of cigarettes. CEASE members gathered in Harrisburg to put pressure on Pennsylvania lawmakers to eliminate smoking inside Keystone State casinos.

Pennsylvania casino employees are tired of working in smoking environments. On Tuesday, members of Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects rallied at the Capitol Building in Harrisburg urging lawmakers to pass the Protecting Workers from Secondhand Smoke Act.

A loophole in the the Clean Indoor Air Act of 2008 allowed smoking in designated areas on gaming floors inside Pennsylvania casinos. Allegheny County Democratic Rep. Dan Frankel introduced a bill last September that would eliminate it entirely.

There had appeared to be momentum as the bill passed through the House Committee last November, but it has been at a stand-still since.

CEASE employees rally to put pressure on PA lawmakers

The bill passed through the House Committee just two months after Frankel introduced it, which is considered to be quick. However, legislation has been stagnant, since.

A vote to amend the bill was scheduled for April, but Frankel’s office told PlayPennsylvania it had gotten pulled from the agenda to ensure enough votes. It did not provide any timetable of getting the bill back on the agenda.

Frankel’s office did not answer PlayPennsylvania‘s request on Tuesday for an update. Because of an apparent slow period, Jennifer Rubolino, a table games dealer at Rivers Casino Pittsburgh and CEASE member, rallied other employees to meet in Harrisburg. She said in a statement:

“Legislators have a responsibility to stand with workers, and that means ensuring the safety of everyone in the workplace, starting with eliminating indoor smoking in our casinos.

“Closing the casino smoking loophole is not just a moral duty but a smart decision for the state, especially considering that 90% of guests do not smoke. We’ve seen the success of smoke-free casinos in this state, like Parx Casino, which has voluntarily operated smoke-free. How do you put a price on the health of employees? We urge legislators to pass comprehensive smoke-free laws to ensure that no one has to sacrifice their health for a paycheck.”

Parx has always been a source in favor of the non-smoking argument in Pennsylvania. The Bensalem casino has been voluntarily non-smoking since the pandemic, and is the highest-grossing property in the state.

Parx’s new location in Shippensburg is also smoke-free. Chief Marketing Officer Marc Oppenheimer told PlayPennsylvania back in February 2023 that the company’s employee healthcare costs has decreased.

NJ casino workers filed smoking lawsuit in April

Casino employees working in New Jersey are fighting the same battle. However, CEASE workers in the Garden State filed a lawsuit in April against the state over loopholes in the Smoke-Free Air Act.

Pennsylvania workers have not reached that point, yet. They are going to let the legislation process run its course.

Traci Kennedy, Midwest Strategist for Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, told PlayPennsylvania in April:

“This announcement does not have an immediate impact on PA casino workers who remain exposed to secondhand smoke every day at work. Parx Casino is thriving and saving money on health care premiums while operating smokefree.

“A legislative proposal is being considered – HB1657 – to close loopholes in the PA Clean Indoor Air Act. Lawmakers have the best opportunity to guarantee all workers have the same smoke-free protections.”

As evidence of Tuesday’s gathering, PA CEASE members are starting to put pressure on lawmakers to move the bill forward. It’s essentially been stalled since last November.

Casino workers are hoping the bill starts to move, and move quickly. Here are final steps before it lands on Gov. Josh Shapiro‘s desk:

  • Pass it on the House floor
  • Send to Senate to go through above steps
  • Send to Senate floor

PA CEASE may need to stay in the full-court press for awhile in order to push this effort over the finish line. Unfortunately, there’s no telling when that’ll be.

Photo by Shutterstock
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Corey Sharp

Corey Sharp is the Lead Writer at PlayPennsylvania bringing you comprehensive coverage of sports betting and gambling in Pennsylvania. Corey is a 4-for-4 Philly sports fan and previously worked as a writer and editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer and NBC Sports Philadelphia.

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