Pennsylvania is currently facing a conflict between public health and smoking regulations, with casinos being one of the few places that still allow smoking on designated areas of their gaming floors. There is an ongoing effort by lawmakers in Harrisburg to eliminate this exemption and subject casinos to the same indoor air regulations as other public places.
Efforts to Pass a Statute
The Pennsylvania Clean Indoor Air Act of 2008 banned smoking indoors in public places, but some exemptions were made for casinos, cigar lounges, private clubs, and drinking establishments. Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny County) is pushing for a ban on smoking in Pennsylvania casinos, as his previous attempt with House Bill 2466 was not successful.
Frankel is motivated by the health risks posed by indoor smoking at casinos, such as the River Casino Pittsburgh, as well as the health of nearby residents. Despite the casino’s claims that its HVAC system has been upgraded with a purification system, Frankel believes it is important to reinforce the restrictions for the protection of those exposed to secondhand smoke.
Advantages of Smoke-free Environments
In a letter to his colleagues, Frankel stated that since the Clean Indoor Air Act was enacted, smoking rates have significantly decreased and the concentration of health risks from secondhand smoke has been limited to a few unprotected workplaces. He also referred to research that shows smoke-free environments attract more customers, and pointed to Pennsylvania casino revenues remaining steady even during the COVID-19 pandemic when indoor smoking was banned. Frankel’s new bill aims to close most of the loopholes in the Clean Indoor Air Act and prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes and vapes indoors.
Pennsylvania’s Gaming Industry
Pennsylvania recently surpassed New Jersey to become the second-richest gaming state in the nation, with its most successful casino, Parx, earning over $637.5 million in gross gaming revenue. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Parx made the decision to ban indoor smoking from its entire gaming floor for the benefit of its employees and to prevent damage to the casino. Eric Hausler, head of Parx’s parent company, Greenwood Racing Inc., stated that this move was in the best interest of their staff and the casino.