New Jersey Smoking Lawsuit Has No ‘Immediate Impact’ On PA Casino Workers

Written By Corey Sharp on April 8, 2024
Close-up of man smoking with the words

Last Friday, Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects (CEASE) and the United Auto Workers (UAW), which represents Atlantic City casino workers, filed a lawsuit against the State of New Jersey over loopholes in the Smoke-Free Air Act. While this is big news for New Jersey, it does not affect Pennsylvania’s fight to ban smoking inside casinos.

CEASE members did not give PlayPennsylvania any indication that a lawsuit would be filed in the Keystone State. It is hoping Allegheny County Democratic Rep. Dan Frankel’s House Bill 1657 is able to close loopholes of the Clean Indoor Air Act of 2008.

New Jersey casino workers suing, PA smoking bill still on House Floor

Garden State casino workers are taking matters into their own hands by suing the state over the smoke-filled air inside casinos. The lawsuit challenges exemptions under the Smoke-Free Air Act, which, CEASE claims, violates the New Jersey State Constitution on three grounds.

Pennsylvania casino workers have shared similar experiences of working in smoke-filled environments since 2008. Parx Casino’s two locations, Bensalem and Shippensburg, are the only properties in the state that have banned smoking voluntarily.

The lawsuit in New Jersey does not have any bearing on Pennsylvania casino employees. Pennsylvania representatives are hopeful HB 1657 passes through the legislature.

Traci Kennedy, Midwest Strategist for Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, told PlayPennsylvania on Friday evening:

“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 smokefree protections.”

Smoking at New Jersey casinos impacts Philadelphia residents’ visitation

In a press release emailed to PlayPennsylvania, CEASE included a study from December that found Philadelphia-area adults are much more likely to visit Atlantic City casinos if they are 100% smoke-free. Here are the results:

  • 74% of Philadelphians stated they were more likely to visit an entirely smoke-free casino while only 26% stated that they were less likely.
  • Among the 69% of Philadelphia-area adults who are casino-goers (they have been to a casino in the past five years), 74% are more likely to visit a smoke-free casino. Among non casino-goers, even more (76%) are more likely to visit a smoke-free casino.
  • Pennsylvania and New Jersey residents living in the Philadelphia area are also more likely to visit a casino if it is smoke-free (76% and 71%, respectively).

The survey concludes that New Jersey casinos would get more visitors, including from Pennsylvania residents. However, the leaders of CEASE are outraged that the state has chosen to ignore the smoking issues at-hand, putting hundreds of casino employees at risk.

Pete Naccarelli, Nicole Vitola, and Lamont White, co-founders and co-leaders of CEASE, said in a joint statement:

“The State of Jersey decided nearly 20 years ago that secondhand smoke was dangerous and that virtually every worker must be protected from exposure to it – except for us. The State of New Jersey has failed us, and we’re tired of seeing co-workers become sick or even die from a litany of diseases that could have been prevented.

“It’s shameful and it cannot continue. We are pursuing every angle to save our lives and the lives of thousands of our fellow casino workers in South Jersey. While we proceed with this lawsuit, our message to legislators in Trenton remains the same: pass the clean bill that solves this problem, once and for all.”

Update on fight against smoking inside Pennsylvania casinos

HB 1657, otherwise known as Protecting Workers from Secondhand Smoke Act, would close the loopholes of the Clean Indoor Air Act of 2008 and effectively ban smoking at PA casinos.

The last update on the bill came in February, where a spokesperson from Rep. Frankel’s office said legislation is sitting on the House floor with no timetable for a vote.

The bill passed through the House Committee last November after a 13-11 vote. However, it’s been at a standstill since. The spokesperson from Rep. Frankel’s office told PlayPennsylvania in February:

“It passed the committee in the fall, but hasn’t come up for a vote yet on the House floor. We don’t know when that will be, unfortunately. It’s up to House leadership.”

The spokesperson reiterated that the goal of the bill has not been lost:

“In the meantime, though, we have been working to ensure that we will have the votes to pass it on a bipartisan basis.”

Pennsylvania casino employees are hoping the bill moves through the process as soon as possible. Here are the steps in order to do so:

  • Circulate a piece of proposed legislation among colleagues and ask to co-sponsor
  • Introduce bill and Speaker of House refers it to committee
  • Committee chairman decides to hold bill or run it through committee
  • Send to House floor with affirmative vote
  • Pass it on the House floor
  • Send to Senate to go through above steps
  • Send to Senate floor

The first four steps have been completed.

PlayPennsylvania spoke with Rep. Frankel in November before the House Committee vote, where the lawmaker said he was “totally certain” the bill would pass, as he hoped the bill would land on Gov. Josh Shapiro’s desk in March or April of this year.

While that timeline looks extremely unlikely, Rep. Frankel is likely going to have to adjust his timetable.

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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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