Over a decade ago, Pennsylvania lawmakers signed off on the Clean Indoor Air Act. The legislation made it illegal to smoke inside public areas and workplaces and was in line with the non-smoking movement sweeping across the US. However, the law also allowed certain exceptions, continue to permit lighting up in casinos, private venues, cigar lounges and certain bars, but that may soon become a thing of the past, as well. A new bill introduced this week would strip those exceptions, making it illegal to smoke anywhere inside casinos.
House Bill 2298 (HB2298) is the brainchild of Representative Dan Frankel. It seeks to remove the exemptions, and to also prohibit smoking at any outdoor stadium. It would also eliminate the use of e-cigarettes. He says of his bill, “It’s a no-brainer for all workplaces and indoor public spaces to be smoke-free. From a public health, economic and social perspective, HB2298 ensures clean indoor air is not only for some workers or some establishments.”
There are currently 12 casinos in the state, and additional satellites are on their way. The venues offer designated smoking areas within their facilities, options that were implemented based on the language included in the initial smoking legislation. The CIAA had stated that a casino, or other venues, could designate as much as 50% of its gaming space to smoking, as long as they were approved by authorities. Across the state, there are over 1,800 properties that have been given that approval.
Most operators have been sympathetic to non-smokers, while still trying to balance the rights of smokers, as well. However, the new legislation will take the burden off their shoulders.
There are concerns that banning smoking entirely is going to impact the casinos’ bottom lines. In certain jurisdictions elsewhere that have implemented similar legislation, revenues have declined as the bans were put into place; however, there hasn’t been evidence that can definitively link the two.
Penn National is one of the many gaming operators that would have preferred things stay the way they are. The company’s VP of Public Affairs and Government Relations, Jeff Morris, asserts, “Smoking has always been allowed at Pennsylvania’s casinos. We strive to be a leader in this highly competitive business environment, and this is only obtainable when we can compete on a level playing field.”
There’s a little hope on the horizon for businesses that are concerned about losing income if patrons stay away. Last year, lawmakers considered a bill with similar language, but it was killed and sent to the recycling bin.