There’s been a movement within the state to ban smoking inside Pennsylvania casinos. Prominent slots streamer, Brian Christopher, has advocated for smoke-free casinos in a piece he wrote in the CDC Gaming Reports newsletter.
While you might not have heard of Christopher, he has quite the following. The influencer has 647,000 YouTube subscribers and nearly 66,000 Instagram followers. His voice carries weight.
Legislators have put on a full-court press to ban smoking in Pennsylvania casinos. It could possibly happen at some point this year.
Influencer Brian Christopher pens a message to ban Pennsylvania casino smoking
Christopher does not have many ties to Pennsylvania. However, as a frequent slots player in Las Vegas, Nevada, he’s been paying attention to the smoking conundrum in the Keystone State.
Most Pennsylvania casinos have designated 50% of the gaming floor as smoking sections, as a loophole under the Clean Indoor Air Act of 2008. Parx Casino Bensalem and Shippensburg are the only two facilities in the state that are voluntarily smoke-free.
Christopher has been a proponent of smoke-free casinos for 10 years. There is evidence of casinos removing smoking being in a better financial position over those that haven’t. He said in the CDC Gaming Reports newsletter:
“We learned at G2E this year that of the casinos reporting revenue outside Nevada, the top seven were all smokefree, roughly half by business decision and half by state law. The argument that casinos will take a hit by eliminating smoking from indoor spaces doesn’t take into account changes in mindset that came with the pandemic. As the data shows, smoke-free casinos can be quite successful.”
Parx Casino Bensalem is a great example of a smoke-free environment thriving in the Keystone State. It’s the top-grossing facility and one of the most profitable casinos in the world.
The location generated $598.7 million in slots and table games revenue in 2022 and is on pace to record $586.6 million in 2023. Both lead all Pennsylvania casinos.
Pennsylvania casino employees are speaking out
The movement to ban smoking started in New Jersey, where the Casino Employees Against Smoking’s Effects (CEASE) formed. CEASE demonstrated a protest outside Atlantic City casinos in September 2022.
Those efforts have carried across the Pennsylvania border. CEASE has grown, including many casino workers from the Keystone State, too. Christopher has taken notice:
“Workers are also getting more organized, with groups like CEASE, and are advocating for change in a growing number of states.”
When Allegheny County Democratic Rep. Dan Frankel introduced the bill to end smoking in September, otherwise known as the Protecting Workers from Secondhand Smoke Act, he also noticed increased support from casino workers.
Jen Rubolino is a table games dealer at Rivers Casino Pittsburgh and an administrator for CEASE PA. Testifying in front of the health committee last September, Rubolino felt the importance of speaking up rather than sitting on the sidelines. She told PlayPennsylvania:
“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 is one of several voices for Pennsylvania casino workers who are fed up with working in smoke-filled environments.
An update on Protecting Workers from Secondhand Smoke Act
Frankel introduced the bill last September and was “totally certain” it would pass in November. He was right.
During a Health Committee meeting in November, Rep. Frankel announced that the bill passed thanks to a 13-11 vote.
A press release stated the Protecting Workers from Secondhand Smoke Act would:
- Eliminate loopholes in the Clean Indoor Air Act that leave workers exposed to cancerous secondhand smoke
- Expand the definition of smoking to add e-cigarettes to combat the rise in vaping-related illnesses
- Give all localities the ability to enact smoke-free ordinances that are more protective than state law
There are a host of obstacles still in the way of passing the bill. Here is the chain of command it must go through to pass:
- 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. Frankel is hoping the bill lands on Gov. Josh Shapiro’s desk by March or April. By that point, it’s up to Shapiro. However, Frankel expects the governor to be supportive.