Citing health dangers, Pennsylvania casino employees spoke before state lawmakers in Harrisburg regarding their worries with the continued permit of indoor smoking in specific parts of gaming floors. The Pennsylvania Clean Indoor Air Act exempts the casino business, allowing them to set aside up to half of their gaming area for indoor smoking. State Representative Dan Frankel has sponsored a measure to abolish this exemption.
Additionally, there are exceptions to the Clean Indoor Air Act for private clubs, cigar lounges, bars that sell alcohol only, and groups such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). For the second year in a row, Frankel is advocating for the removal of tobacco smoke from casinos and other facilities that are not covered by the clean indoor air law. He bases this on out-of-date industry arguments that say going smoke-free would negatively impact their operations.
Parx Casino’s Profitable Model Highlights Success of Smoke-Free Venues
“Smoke-free environments attract more customers— not fewer,” said Frankel.
The Pennsylvania House Health Committee, presided over by Frankel, heard testimony from casino employees and health experts discussing House Bill 1657, a bill that aims to eliminate smoking. Citing Parx Casino’s resolve to stay smoke-free throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Jen Rubolino, a table games dealer at Rivers Casino Pittsburgh and co-leader of the Pennsylvania chapter of “Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects” (CEASE), stressed the advantages of smoke-free casinos. The fact that Parx outperformed rivals in gaming revenue in 2022 lends credence to the idea that establishments without smoking can turn a profit.
Rubolino stated that they have personally witnessed that the proof. Parx is spearheading the movement with smoke-free venues and industry-best profits. Out of all the eighteen casinos in Pennsylvania, Parx and its satellite location, Parx Casino Shippensburg, are the only ones that provide completely smoke-free gaming areas. Speaking on behalf of thousands of casino employees, Rubolino emphasized that this is a daily struggle for workers who put in eight-hour shifts, 40 hours per week, just to make a living. She firmly stated that such a situation should not be the norm.
Casino Workers Demand Equal Treatment Under Clean Indoor Air Act, Industry Remains Silent
She made the case that the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act discriminates against casino employees and urged legislators to support House Bill 1657, stressing that workers in the industry shouldn’t have to choose between their health and a wage. Remarkably, despite invites, no representatives of the casino industry gave testimony during the House Health Committee’s assessment of Frankel’s measure. Similar Bills have been proposed in New Jersey, Senate Bill 264 and Assembly Bill 2151.
VFW Department of Pennsylvania state quartermaster John Getz spoke about internal disputes between VFW chapters about indoor smoking regulations. He mentioned that VFW chapters that choose to implement smoke-free programs had previously seen a decline in membership. Nonetheless, the majority of VFW chapters have implemented smoke-free regulations in recent years, particularly in the wake of the pandemic. Getz stated that the group supported Frankel’s measure and hoped it would settle any outstanding issues about smoking that remained within VFW chapters.
During the hearing, the House Health Committee did not vote on the smoking bill. Frankel highlighted the committee’s duty to safeguard Pennsylvanians’ health and said that the group will meet again soon.