Rivers Casino Philadelphia Maintaining Indoor Smoking Ban

Posted on: May 3, 2022, 09:15h. 

Last updated on: May 3, 2022, 02:25h.

Rivers Casino Philadelphia has voluntarily decided to eliminate indoor smoking from its gaming floor. The ban brings the Fishtown casino into harmony with Parx, another Philly-area casino located just north of the city proper in Bensalem, Pa.

Rivers Casino Philadelphia smoking indoor Atlantic City
A slots gambler at Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City smokes a cigarette on February 10, 2022. Rivers Casino Philadelphia has made the optional decision to prohibit indoor smoking. (Image: AP)

Pennsylvania’s Clean Indoor Air Act of 2008 provided an exemption for commercial casinos that allows such facilities to designate up to 50% of their gaming space for smoking. Rivers, however, is opting to forego that allowance and maintain a smoke-free venue.

Rivers Casino Philadelphia has decided to continue prohibiting indoor smoking,” a statement from the casino explained. “Rivers will continue to monitor feedback, which has been positive.”

Rivers Casino is owned and operated by Rush Street Gaming. The Chicago-based gaming firm additionally runs Rivers Casino Pittsburgh. Smoking there will remain permitted, for the time being, company officials confirmed.

Regional Influence

Many Atlantic City casino workers and New Jersey state lawmakers want to end a similar indoor smoking loophole afforded to casinos in Atlantic City. But industry officials there, as well as a recent note from gaming analyst John DeCree of Union Gaming, said a smoking ban would hurt gaming revenues by as much as 25%.

Atlantic City casinos can designate up to 25% of their gaming space for indoor smoking. The Casino Association of New Jersey and DeCree contend that a complete prohibition on casino smoking would put Atlantic City’s gaming market at a competitive disadvantage with Philadelphia casinos. In Pennsylvania, smokers can continue to light up and gamble at the same time.

But with Rivers joining Parx in voluntarily prohibiting indoor smoking, that argument could be subdued.

Rivers and Parx both temporarily suspended indoor casino smoking amid the pandemic, as did all casinos in the state on Gov. Tom Wolf’s (D) COVID-19 orders. But while casinos across the commonwealth have since resumed indoor smoking after the governor’s order was lifted, Parx and Rivers opted to remain smoke-free throughout 2021. Despite being smoke-free, Parx and Rivers respectively ranked No. 1 and No. 3 in total 2021 GGR among Pennsylvania’s 16 land-based casinos.

Parx brick-and-mortar revenue last year from slot machines and table games totaled approximately $617.1 million. Rivers Philadelphia GGR totaled more than $352.6 million.

By comparison, Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia — the only other casino inside the city’s limits —  returned indoor smoking once allowed. But the Stadium District facility’s land-based GGR in 2021 totaled roughly $209.3 million. But it’s worth noting that Live! only opened in late January of 2021.

Atlantic City Response

Those who want casino smoking banned in Atlantic City were quick to react to the Rivers Casino Philadelphia news.

“Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights” is a national nonprofit advocating for clean public airspaces that is working with “Casino Employees Against Smoking’s Effects (CEASE).” ANR President and CEO Cynthia Hallett says Rivers’ decision should be a wake-up call for Atlantic City.

It’s becoming harder and harder for Atlantic City casinos to defend indoor smoking that threatens the health of their employees,” Hallett said. “Rivers Casino Philly joins Parx Casino and casinos in Delaware, Maryland, New York, and Connecticut in not permitting indoor smoking.

“It’s past time for Atlantic City casinos to end this outdated business practice and instead benefit from the guests who would visit their properties, were it not for the smoke,” Hallett concluded.