Where there is talk about smoking at casinos there is plenty of fire. Two lawmakers from Western Pennsylvania introduced legislation that would make all casinos in the state smoke-free. Allegheny County Democrats Sen. Jay Costa and Rep. Dan Frankel unveiled the Protecting Workers from Secondhand Smoke Act on March 16.
When Pennsylvania casinos reopened in June 2020 after coronavirus-forced closures, restrictions required them to ban smoking largely due to masking rules. When the universal mask mandate was dropped, most casinos allowed smoking to return. However, Parx, the state’s highest-grossing casino, remained completely smoke-free.
Is smoking allowed at PA casinos?
Yes, you are allowed to smoke 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.
Bill aims to protect workers from secondhand smoke
If passed, the Protecting Workers from Secondhand Smoke Act, would offer Pennsylvania workers protection from secondhand smoke in places where smoking is still permitted indoors due to exemptions in the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act.
According to a press release by Rep Frankel, 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 include e-cigarettes in order to combat the increase in vaping-related illnesses.
- Give local governments the ability to put into place smoke-free ordinances that are more protective than state law.
No smoking at PA casinos has not impacted revenue
Parx Casino in Bensalem, the longstanding top casino in PA for slot and table games revenue decided to keep the casino completely smoke-free. Frankel also noted that Parx Casino Shippensburg, a new mini-casino opening in 2022, will be non-smoking.
Here’s a look at Parx’s last three months of slot and table games revenue according to figures from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
- Slot: $33.9 million (25 % YoY increase)
- Table games: $15.7 million (12% YoY increase)
- Slots: $28.9 million (2% YoY increase)
- Table games: $16.7 million (25% YoY increase)
- Slots; $33.6 million (240% YoY increase)
- Table games: $17.7 million (185% YoY increase)
Mount Airy Casino smoke-free
Mount Airy Casino also chose to remain smoke-free. A look at their slot and table games figures:
Slots: $10.7 million (28% YoY increase)
Table games: $3.2 million (4 YoY increase)
Slots: $9 million (-1.93% YoY decrease)
Table games: $2.9 million (-3.84% YoY decrease)
Slots: $10.3 million (265% YoY increase)
Table games: $3.2 million (583% YoY increase)
Rep. Dan Frankel commented on the revenue at casinos that have chosen not to bring back smoking:
“Let’s put to rest the myth that customers won’t come if they can’t smoke indoors. That didn’t happen when smoking was banned on airplanes. It didn’t happen when smoking was banned in restaurants, and it won’t happen when indoor smoking is finally eliminated in casinos. If we cannot count on private businesses to do the right thing even when it’s the financially smart thing, then it’s time for political leaders to step in and insist on the protection of the health of our constituents.”
Bill would ban smoking at casinos
The CDC estimated 12.5% of American adults smoke cigarettes and has reached an all-time low.
Sen. Costa believes now is the time to update the Clean Indoor Air Act.
“Going to work shouldn’t increase someone’s risk of cancer or lung disease, but that is exactly what happens to the men and women who work in casinos. Indoor smoking exceptions at these facilities are unsafe for workers and non-smoking patrons. Clean air is a right and that’s why I’m introducing this legislation again with my colleague Representative Frankel.”
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who also gave remarks during the bill announcement said:
“Because of the pandemic, we know that businesses that previously suggested that their survival was tied to smoking can actually thrive in a no-smoking environment. In a market where there are great employment needs, offering opportunities for potential employees that also protects their health is a no-brainer.”
Non-smoking advocates praise Bill to get rid of smoking at PA casinos
Cynthia Hallett, president and CEO of Americans for Nonsmokers Rights, a non-profit advocacy group, commented on the legislation by Sen. Costa and Rep. Frankel:
“We applaud Senator Costa and Rep. Frankel for prioritizing the health of casino workers who deserve to the same protections from deadly secondhand smoke as nearly every other worker in the Commonwealth. Getting rid of smoking in casinos is a win-win for workers and the industry, as we’ve seen several Pennsylvania casinos thrive while operating without indoor smoking — a commonsense decision supported by the majority of residents.”
In a statement from ANR, a rep from Parx Casino said:
“Since smoking was allowed to return to (Pennsylvania casinos) in June, we have continued to be an indoor non-smoking facility. We’ve done it for the health and comfort of both our guests and team members. We have received significant positive feedback from both constituencies. And (we) have continued our strong performance and gains of market share in the region.”
Lead image by Katie Kohler