Pennsylvania Casino Workers Applaud Legislation to Protect Their Health
HB 1657 Eliminates Indoor Smoking, Closes the Casino Smoking Loophole
Harrisburg, PA— Casino workers and members of Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects (CEASE) praised the Pennsylvania House Health Committee today after the committee voted to pass legislation to close the casino smoking loophole. Committee Chairman and Representative Dan Frankel introduced HB 1657, which will add all workplaces and public spaces to the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act, and remove indoor smoking, including the use of e-cigarettes, from bars, casinos and private clubs.
“We thank Rep. Frankel and members of the House Health Committee for voting to pass legislation that will immediately improve our workplace conditions and fully protect thousands of frontline casino workers from the dangers of secondhand smoke,” said Jen Rubolino, a table games dealer at Rivers Casino and co-leader of CEASE PA. “Today is a great day in our fight for a healthier workplace and we won’t stop fighting for this legislation until we can finally breathe smokefree air at work. We urge lawmakers to pass this bill when it comes to the House floor because no one should be forced to choose between their health and a paycheck.”
In September, CEASE testified before the committee in support of legislation to end indoor smoking in the state’s commercial casinos and protect frontline workers from being exposed to secondhand smoke on the job.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board reported this summer that smokefree Parx Casino in the Philadelphia/New Jersey market continues to lead Pennsylvania’s gaming industry as the state posted record-high revenue. In February, the executives at Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment doubled down on the success of Parx by opening another smokefree casino in Shippensburg.
More and more casinos nationwide are going smoke free, including Park MGM on the Las Vegas Strip. At least 160 sovereign tribal gaming venues implemented 100% smoke-free policies during COVID-19, 20 states require commercial casinos to be smoke-free indoors, and more than 1,000 gaming properties do not permit smoking indoors.
Over the past three years, thousands of casino workers have joined the worker-led movement to close the casino smoking loophole. Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects (CEASE) is active in five states including New Jersey, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Kansas and Virginia. CEASE members have testified before legislators, sharing harrowing stories of pregnant women being forced to work surrounded by high-roller cigar smokers and some who have developed cancer after a lifelong career in the casinos.
A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that found adult cigarette smoking rates in the U.S. dropped to an all-time low, with only 1 in 9 adults saying they were current smokers. Another report from the CDC Office on Smoking and Health examined air quality in Las Vegas casinos. The report, entitled “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Your Lungs,” evaluated particulate matter – an indicator for secondhand smoke – in casinos that are smoke-free indoors, and compared the results to casinos that allow smoking. They affirmed that prohibiting smoking throughout the entirety of a casino is the only way to prevent the harms of secondhand smoke.
Ventilation systems are not the answer, according to the engineers who design such systems and collectively make up the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). “[Ventilation systems] are not effective against secondhand smoke” and “can reduce only odor and discomfort, but cannot eliminate exposure,” reads their report. “There is no currently available or reasonably anticipated ventilation or air-cleaning system that can adequately control or significantly reduce the health risks of [environmental tobacco smoke] to an acceptable level.”
A report published by Las Vegas-based C3 Gaming found that casinos without indoor smoking outperform their smoking counterparts. “Data from multiple jurisdictions clearly indicates that banning smoking no longer causes a dramatic drop in gaming revenue,” wrote C3 Gaming. “In fact, non-smoking properties appear to be performing better than their counterparts that continue to allow smoking.
Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects (CEASE) is a group of thousands of casino dealers and other frontline gaming workers that is fighting to permanently remove smoking from our workplaces. CEASE has chapters working to close the casino smoking loophole in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Kansas and Virginia.