Pennsylvania officially ended its universal masking order on June 28. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board then told the state’s fourteen brick-and-mortar casinos they could allow smoking indoors again.
Some casinos reinstated smoking right away, others held off a few days. But now, only Parx remains smoke-free. According to Parx’s website and on-property signage.
“Indoor smoking is temporarily suspended. Guests may smoke at our new outdoor smoking patio next to XClub West.”
Parx, the highest grossing casino in Pennsylvania, has chosen not to follow suit, for now, with casinos in the rest of the state and in Atlantic City where smoking has returned.
Parx draws praise
Cynthia Hallett, president and CEO of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, makes appearances and writes various editorials about smoking at casinos. She urges states to make casinos smokefree.
“Pennsylvania should join 20 other states that have banned smoking in casinos by making the temporary ban permanent.”
In an email to PlayPennsylvania in response to Parx still temporarily staying smoke-free, Hallett said:
“We applaud Parx for remaining smokefree and protecting their workers and guests from the indisputable dangers of even brief exposure to secondhand smoke. This decision reflects the fact that guests overwhelmingly prefer smokefree casino environments. The significant backlash to the return of smoking at Pennsylvania and New Jersey casinos in recent weeks, from guests and employees forced to breathe in smoke for hours on end, should prompt all gaming executives to adopt a smokefree policy. In the wake of a global pandemic, now is the time to finally make the switch to permanently smokefree indoor air.”
Smoking still temporarily suspended at Parx
On a rainy, unseasonable Sunday in July, a steady stream of visitors made their way into Parx in Bensalem. All the craps tables ($15 and $25 minimums) were full but there was room at some blackjack tables. Overall, it was a good crowd for a Sunday in the summer.
Anyone who visited casinos pre-pandemic would probably notice the familiar scent of tobacco was missing.
We stopped a customer service rep to ask about smoking.
Do you think smoking is going to come back?
“ We don’t know. Just taking things a day at a time and evaluating,” they answered.
Slot machines note that indoor smoking is temporarily suspended and about once an hour an announcement is made about it.
There are clear and multiple signs about outdoor smoking areas. At Parx, the smoking patios are outside of the Beer Garden. Guests do not need to exit the buildings to get to the smoking patios as they can be accessed through the Sportsbook and the beer garden.
Casinos are one of a few businesses where smoking is allowed indoors
Under Pennsylvania’s Clean Indoor Air Act, casinos are one of the few places that can allow indoor smoking. Certain regulations still pertain to smoking at casinos. Smoking areas can not exceed 50% of square feet of the gaming floor.
Some casinos, like Live! Casino Pittsburgh, permits smoking on 25% of the casino floor. At Hollywood Casino, smoking is back, however it is not permitted at table games.
Casinos tout their state-of-the-art air filtration systems. When Presque Isle Downs announced the return of smoking, they tweeted they were “excited to use our state of the art filtration system that recycles the entire casino floor air in just 4 1/2 minutes?.”
Hallett compares having non-smoking and smoking sections in the same building as pools with “non-peeing sections.”
“Smoke from one section invariably wafts into adjacent sections and even the most sophisticated fans and air filtration systems can’t stop it. It only takes one smoker to affect the hearts and lungs of everyone in the room, on the airplane, in the casino, in the nightclub….”
Top grossing casino in PA
Parx continues to hold the title of highest grossing casino in Pennsylvania.
During fiscal year 2020/2021 (July 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021.), PA casinos were only able to permit smoking starting on June 28.
According to figures from the PGCB, in FY 2020/2021, Parx reported $373.4 million in slot revenue. It represented a 24.3% increase from the previous year when they were closed 106 days due to the coronavirus pandemic. Wind Creek Casino was a distant second for slot revenue with $221.9 million.
Parx also lead for table game revenue with $174.4 million.
- 3098 slot machines
- 188 table games
- 1605 employees
Poll shows most prefer no smoking at casinos
PlayPennsylvania conducted a poll on Twitter and LinkedIn that asked “Should smoking be allowed indoors at Pennsylvania casinos?”
The results were nearly identical with 82% voting “no.”