New Pennsylvania Clean Indoor Air Act Would Ban Smoking in Casinos

  • Representative Dan Frankel and Senator Jay Costa are heading the effort
  • Other states have already banned or are working toward banning smoking in casinos
  • Rivers Casino will not contest the decision either way
  • Supporters feel that smoking is only currently allowed because of loopholes in legislation
A cigarette, lighter, and playing cards
Pennsylvania lawmakers are pushing to amend the Pennsylvania Clean Indoor Air Act and ban smoking in casinos. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Regulating smoking in public places

Members of the Pennsylvania state legislature are proposing changes to the existing Clean Indoor Air Act that would ban smoking inside casinos.

Representative Dan Frankel and Senator Jay Costa are heading the effort to close gaps in existing legislation regulating smoking in public areas. The new changes would eliminate exemptions granted to places such as casinos and private clubs.

it’s time for political leaders to step in and insist on the protection of the health of our constituents”

“If we cannot count on private businesses to do the right thing, even when it’s the financially smart thing to do, then it’s time for political leaders to step in and insist on the protection of the health of our constituents,” said Frankel.

A controversial issue

Pennsylvania sports betting has been a massive success since it was launched. The state produced a new annual record in 2021 with a $4.73bn handle, 78.5% higher than the year before. The success of betting in Pennsylvania has increased retail traffic as locals have been swarming to casinos to try their luck.

The new proposed legislation could alter the experience for many visitors, though. John Donnelly, counsel to Rivers Casino, which has locations in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, reacted to the news, saying: “[Smoking is] a controversial issue. A lot of people, a lot of our patrons do smoke and like to smoke. A lot of patrons don’t like it. It’s a national issue and a local issue, it’s happening all over the country.”

The first widespread ban on smoking happened in 1995 when California banned cigarettes from all indoor restaurants. The early and mid-2000s saw many other states join in on the effort to ban smoking in public areas, citing public health as justification. New Jersey also joined the effort to ban smoking from casinos earlier this year.

as of October 1, 2021, 82.1% of Americans lived under a smoking ban

The American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation claimed that as of October 1, 2021, 82.1% of Americans lived under a smoking ban in workplaces, restaurants, or bars.

Many states also cracked down on smoking bans after mask mandates were lifted to help reduce the spread of disease.

Donnelly noted that Rivers Casino will not be fighting the decision on smoking, regardless of the verdict.

“We’re a highly regulated industry; the most regulated industry in the country, really,” he said. “We will abide by whatever the wisdom of Harrisburg [the state capital] is.”

Changes to the Pennsylvania Clean Indoor Air Act

Smoking and gambling have often gone hand-in-hand for bettors looking to kick back and enjoy their time out. However, many now want to see change to the existing loopholes in the Clean Indoor Air Act that have allowed public smoking.

One person who feels strongly about banning smoking is Molly Pisciottano of the American Lung Association and Breathe Free PA Coalition. Pisciottano feels that Pennsylvania’s allowance of public smoking is a detriment to general health.

“We know people do have the right to breathe clean air and should not be exposed to these harmful toxins can cause lung cancer and exacerbate other lung health issues such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” Pisciottano said.

Gamblers are split on their opinions of smoking, some are in favor and some are not. There could be an uptick in online gambling depending on which way the result swings.