The House Health Committee in Pennsylvania is preparing to vote on a proposed measure that would prohibit smoking at the state’s 17 casinos. Under House Bill 1657, also known as the Protecting Workers from Secondhand Smoke Act, all forms of smoking, including electronic cigarettes, would be banned from casinos, bars, and private clubs in Pennsylvania.
The bill aims to close a loophole in the Pennsylvania Clean Indoor Air Act that currently exempts casinos, private clubs, bars, and tobacco shops from the indoor smoking ban. Enacted in 2008, the original law permits casinos to designate up to half of their gaming area as a smoking section.
However, many casino employees have expressed dissatisfaction with the existing law, claiming that the exemption puts them at risk of inhaling secondhand smoke and jeopardizes their health.
House Bill 1675 seeks to eliminate the smoking exemption for casinos, bars, and clubs, while still permitting tobacco shops to allow indoor smoking.
The driving force behind the bill is Representative Dan Frankel, chair of the House Health Committee. Frankel remains optimistic about the measure’s prospects for passage. He stated that it is essential to create legislation that prioritizes the wellbeing of club and casino workers, rather than forcing them to choose between their health and their livelihood.
Despite the bill’s proponents advocating for improved worker safety, casino representatives have voiced concerns about the potential negative impacts on their revenue. They argue that smoking bans could drive away casino patrons, although there is limited evidence to support this claim.
Supporters of the smoking ban in Pennsylvania have pointed to Parx’s Bensalem casino, which already prohibits smoking and continues to generate higher revenue than its local competitors. Additionally, the smoking prohibition adopted by the Bensalem and Shippensburg casinos has resulted in a notable boost in employee morale.
The House Health Committee is scheduled to vote on the measure in Harrisburg today, and all eyes are on the outcome of the deliberations.