Pennsylvania Casino Smoking Days Could Be Numbered, as Clean Indoor Air Loophole May Close

Posted on: March 17, 2022, 09:05h. 

Last updated on: March 17, 2022, 11:38h.

The Pennsylvania Clean Indoor Air Act of 2008 provided casinos with an exemption that allows them to designate up to 50% of their floor space for inside smoking. Two Democratic state lawmakers want to end that loophole.

Pennsylvania casino smoking law gaming
Pennsylvania State Senator Jay Costa addresses the media, announcing his plans to introduce legislation seeking to end indoor casino smoking. Under current law, Pennsylvania casinos can designate up to half of their gaming floor for tobacco use. (Image: Sen. Jay Costa)

State Sen. Jay Costa and Rep. Dan Frankel, both Democrats representing Allegheny County, have issued a memorandum to their respective chamber colleagues seeking their support to ban indoor casino smoking. Allegheny County is home to Rivers Casino Pittsburgh.

Casinos, private clubs, and some drinking establishments expose their workers to untenable health risks by taking advantage of loopholes in our Clean Indoor Air Act. Pennsylvanians should not have to choose between their jobs and their health. That’s why I’ll soon be reintroducing my legislation to close the loopholes that threaten the health of Pennsylvania workers,” said Cota in his memo to the Pennsylvania Senate.

Costa and Frankel’s pieces of legislation will seek to eliminate loopholes for indoor secondhand smoke at casinos, private clubs, and bars that derive the majority of their revenue from alcohol. The bills will also try to expand the definition of cigarette, cigar, and pipe smoking to include e-cigarettes and vaping. It would give localities the authority to implement even more protective smoke-free regulations than the state law requires.

Some Casinos Already Smoke-Free reached out to several casinos in the commonwealth to find out their latest indoor smoking protocols.

Parx Casino near Philadelphia and Rivers Casino Philadelphia both said indoor smoking remains off-limits for the time being. Neither casino would confirm whether that is permanent. But their respective host municipality and city are not currently requiring such a ban.

Parx’s satellite casino, being built in Shippensburg, will also be smoke-free when it opens later this year, the company says.

Live! Casino Hotel Philadelphia, which, like Rivers, is inside the Philadelphia city limits, says it has allowed indoor casino smoking to return. Mount Airy Casino Resort, which voluntarily banned indoor smoking even after the state allowed such smoking to resume amid the pandemic, says that rule continues.

The Pocono Mountains property told that indoor casino smoking remains prohibited, and there are no plans to reverse that decision.

Bistate Movement

Lawmakers in New Jersey are also mulling whether to end the indoor smoking loophole that was afforded to Atlantic City casinos under the state’s Smoke-Free Air Act of 2006. Opponents of the legislative effort argue that prohibiting casino smoking in Atlantic City would put the nine resorts at a competitive disadvantage with neighboring Pennsylvania casinos.

Costa says banning indoor smoking in all public places is justified, as smoking is far less prevalent. He says statistics show that 21% of the US adult population regularly smoked when Pennsylvania passed its clean indoor air law. Today, only 14% of the US adult population reportedly consumes tobacco.

New Jersey’s gaming industry says a smoking ban would threaten as many as 2,500 casino jobs. But those projections are based on indoor smoking continuing at Philadelphia casinos, located just 50 miles west of the New Jersey casino town.