The smoking debate for Pennsylvania casinos is back. Mount Airy Casino has reversed course on its smoking policy and decided to bring back indoor smoking it on May 27.
Mount Airy Casino first announced it banned smoking in August 2021 via an announcement on their Facebook page. A similar post in December 2021 noted the casino ended indoor smoking. However, the casino reversed course and brought back smoking at the casino.
Parx Casino and Rivers Casino Philadelphia are the only Pennsylvania casinos that are completely smoke-free.
Indoor smoking returns to Mount Airy Casino
Mount Airy Casino is the only casino in PA that has banned smoking and then reversed course. PlayPennsylvania reached out to Mount Airy Casino on August 11 but they declined comment.
Mount Airy Casino posted on Facebook on May 27, 2022 announcing that smoking is allowed on the gaming floor.
When Pennsylvania ended the mask mandate in June 2021, Mount Airy Casino announced on Facebook it would bring back smoking on July 5, 2021:
“Effective 7/5/2021 smoking will be permitted in the casino. Please read the updated guidelines regarding smoking on the Casino Floor.”
The comments on the Facebook post about smoking returning to Mount Airy are mostly negative. Some of the top comments are:
- That’s very disappointing. The air was so much cleaner when there was no smoking. If people need to smoke there should be a designated area.
- I’m going to have to start going on weeknights at midnight again! I’ll be keeping my on for the duration of my time there
- Should be NON SMOKING! Just like Restaurants and all public places!
- We won’t be coming anymore. This is a very poor decision to make. I don’t see anyone posting how excited and what a great idea this is either.
The casino then voluntarily banned smoking on August 16, 2021, making another Facebook announcement. The casino reiterated the smoke ban on Facebook in December 2021. Comments on those Facebook posts were overwhelmingly positive.
The reaction to the announcement on the May 27, 2022 Facebook post – allowing smoking on the gaming floor – is unknown because the casino limited who can comment on the post. Mount Airy has not limited who can comment on other Facebook posts.
A banner at the top of Mount Airy Casino’s website reads:
“Smoking is permitted on the casino floor in designated smoking areas.”
Smoking at PA casinos
Under Pennsylvania’s Clean Indoor Air Act, casinos are one of the few places, including private clubs and cigar bars, that allow indoor smoking. Smoking areas can not exceed 50% of square feet of the gaming floor.
Of the 16 casinos in PA, now only Parx Casino and Rivers Philadelphia do not allow indoor smoking. Rivers Philadelphia banned smoking in April and Parx instituted the smoking ban in June 2021, the first casino in Pennsylvania to do so.
In March 2021, two lawmakers from Western Pennsylvania introduced legislation that would make all casinos in the state smoke-free. Casinos across New York, Delaware, Maryland and Connecticut do not allow smoking.
How does Mount Airy’s decision impact other PA casinos?
Chris Moyer, Founder and President of Moyer Strategies, which represents Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, spoke to PlayPennsylvania about Mount Airy Casino’s decision to bring back smoking indoors:
“It’s disappointing for the employees, who are at the whim of the casino executives, whether or not their health is protected at their job or not. It was laudable for Mount Airy to voluntarily have a smoke-free policy in place indoors and they did very well from a revenue point of view, which is of course secondary to protecting the health of their employees. It’s disappointing but this is why we need state laws to prevent this from going back and forth.”
With Mount Airy Casino’s decision to reverse course on smoking, could it open the door for the remaining two smoke-free PA casinos, Parx and Rivers Philadelphia, to do the same?
“No, just the opposite. They’re pretty steadfast in their commitment to this,” Moyer said. “I know Parx has seen market share growth and they’ve gotten a ton of good feedback from employees and guests who don’t want to be in a smoke-filled environment.”
Moyer said he needs Mount Airy Casino employees to speak out against smoking in their casino.
Smoking at Atlantic City casinos
Smoking in Atlantic City casinos has also been talked about for years. A study showed that smoking at Atlantic City casinos will not affect revenue numbers.
Atlantic City casino workers remain undeterred in their quest to ban smoking and passed a critical threshold this summer. Moyer said more than half of all legislators in the legislature are co-sponsoring bills to close the New Jersey’s Smoke-Free Air Act of 2006 loophole.
Legislators will look to advance the bill after Labor Day. Moyer won’t put a deadline on when smoking will be banned, however, he wants it to happen as quickly as possible.
“It’s been 400 days since smoking has been allowed back in Atlantic City casinos. Each day that goes by is another day that a worker has to go breathe in secondhand smoke and put their health at risk.”
Does smoking impact casinos revenue?
Parx, the highest grossing land-based casino in Pennsylvania, has remained non-smoking since June 2021. Parx’s slot revenue percentage has increased by 9.24% from the Fiscal Year 2020/21 to FY 2021/22 and their table game revenue jumped to a 22.52% increase from
Mount Airy Casino, which was non-smoking from June 2021 to May 27, 2022, saw an uptick in revenue from FY 2020/21 to FY 2021/22. The casino saw an increase of 3.98% in slot play from FY 2020/21 to FY 2021/22 and a 9.36% increase in table game play during the same period.
Lead image by Katie Kohler