Allegheny County Democratic Rep. Dan Frankel hosted a hearing and press conference earlier this week in Harrisburg regarding the issue of smoking inside Pennsylvania casinos.
Casino workers from Pennsylvania, who are also part of Casino Employees Against Smoke Effects (CEASE), gave testimonies in front of legislators.
The Clean Indoor Air Act of 2008 had banned smoking in many indoor establishments. However, Pennsylvania casinos fell under an exemption.
PA casino smoking ban hearing conducted this week
Members of CEASE testified in front of the Pennsylvania House Health Committee in support of Frankel’s House Bill 1657. The bill would close the loophole of the Clean Indoor Air Act of 2008 in the following establishments:
- Pennsylvania casinos
- Private clubs
- Home day care centers
- Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) bars
- Bars that do not serve food (or 15% of sales or fewer is from food)
Frankel addressed the media after the hearing. He said:
“We had a very productive hearing today and I feel sure that we are on the path to creating strong, bipartisan legislation that protects our workers so that they are not put in the impossible position of choosing between a paycheck and their health.”
While casino employees from CEASE proudly spoke up, casino executives received multiple invitations to attend. However, no one showed up.
“They had the opportunity to come here and defend their decisions that allow and permit smoking, and they declined,” Frankel said. “What does that say about your position if you only advocate for it in secret behind closed doors?”
Rivers Casino Pittsburgh employee takes on leadership role in fight against smoking
Jen Rubolino changed careers in 2019 and became a table games dealer at Rivers Casino Pittsburgh (which also offers an PA online casino option via BetRivers PA Casino). She initially didn’t know how to play table games, but got the proper training, and now deals Blackjack Mississippi Stud and Three-Card Poker.
“I’ve never really been an office person. I like to entertain people, I’m a people-person,” Rubolino told PlayPennsyvlania.
During Rubolino’s fairly short stint in the casino industry, she’s already making a significant impact. She’s an administrator for the CEASE PA and testified in front of the health committee earlier this week. It’s something she didn’t see coming.
“I was doing my own networking prior to CEASE,” Rubolino said of her role to try and ban indoor smoking. “And one thing led to another. I didn’t know I’d end up in this spot.”
It’s an important place for Rubolino to be in. She is the voice of so many casino workers wishing to work in a clean environment.
Rubolino loves her job as a table games dealer, but has often wondered if she can stay in the industry.
“I had to go to my doctor to get a non-smoking accommodation because otherwise, I was going to have to quit,” she said.
Rubolino noted that she only works in non-smoking sections. However, the exposure to smoke doesn’t go away. It has been proven that the casino’s air ventilation systems are not effective.
Rubolino’s story proves Frankel’s message of choosing between a paycheck and your health.
Smoking inside Pennsylvania casinos hits close to home for employee
Rubolino had to get accommodation from her doctor because of previous breathing issues she’s had in the past. Rubolino’s mother also passed away in 2015 because of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
“This is my calling now at this point,” Rubolino said. “I want to save other people from being on oxygen. I know she’d be proud of me.”
Rubolino said she might have to make a decision on her employment if the case continues to drag on. She told PlayPennsylvania what her testimony consisted of in front of the health committee:
“Casino patrons aren’t the only ones gambling. Casino workers are, too, because they’re gambling with their health. We should have fresh air like the other businesses in the Clean Indoor Air Act of 2008.”
Rubolino, as are countless other PA casino employees, are looking for a solution as soon as possible.