Pennsylvania Looks to Ban Smoking in Casinos

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A general view of Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Justin K. Aller/Getty Images/AFP

Smoking, drinking, and gambling have been the trifecta of vice since the first casino opened its doors in 1906. But it seems that the trifecta could very well be whittled down to a perfecta before too long as smoking in casinos is disappearing across the country and Pennsylvania could be the latest to kick the habit.

Parx Casino Sets the Standard

When the global pandemic arrived in March of 2020, Pennsylvania casinos were shuttered for approximately three months until they were allowed to reopen in June with the requisite mask mandates, social distancing, and all of the other inconveniences associated with prohibiting large gatherings from acting like large gatherings.

And one of those inconveniences came in the form of a smoking ban which rankled the sensibilities of the smokers but delighted those who found the smell of burning tobacco abhorrent. However, the ban would eventually be lifted when the mask mandates were no longer in effect and smokers were back in the driver’s seat.

Yet, there was one casino that decided it was going smoke-free all of the time and it just happened to be Pennsylvania’s leading casino, the Parx Casino in Bensalem. But since making that controversial decision, the business has been brisk much to the surprise of many who believed a ban would drive smokers into the lovin’ arms of another gambling palace.

The Parx numbers from December ’21, January ’22, and February ’22 show an impressive increase in revenue over the previous year. For instance, the December 2021 Parx revenue for slots was $33.6 million, a 240 percent increase over December of 2020, while the revenue on tables games was $17.7 million, or a 185 percent increase over the previous December.

But to be fair we should note that many of the government mandates and overall fear of COVID-19 has substantially subsided over the last 12 months. Parx Casino said in a statement, “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.”

Clean Indoor Air Act

The loopholes in the Clean Indoor Act allow casinos to permit smoking on the gaming floors in Pennsylvania but if the anti-smoking crowd has its way, those clauses will be eliminated. The Protecting Workers from Secondhand Smoke Act, an initiative sponsored by Allegheny County Democrats Sen. Jay Costa and Rep. Dan Frankel, would protect workers from secondhand smoke.

Representative Frankel, said, “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.”

“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,” said Representative Costa.

Bookmakers Review will continue to monitor this story and provide updates to our readers as it unfolds.