Pennsylvania’s legislative committee passed a bill on Wednesday that will prohibit indoor casino smoking. But, it’s casino exemption’s elimination in the Clean Air Act might not occur soon as the committee voted based on party affiliation.
Dan Frankel, the House Health Committee’s Chairman proposed the Protecting Workers from Secondhand Smoking Act (HB1657) which had a close vote hence being forwarded to the full House. Republicans opposed the regulation and all Democrats backed it.
Democrats are the majority in the House and Republicans dominate Pennsylvania’s Senate. However, they have shown the desire to increase smoking bans.
The bill is mainly based on casinos’ exemption in the Clean Indoor Air Act of 2008 which permits smoking on half of casino floors. The Health Committee’s GOP members didn’t indicate they would prohibit smoking inside casinos. Still, they objected to eliminating the law’s exemption for local private clubs, especially veterans’ organizations which they referred to as government overreach.
Representative Kathy Rapp, a vocal Republican in the House Health Committee, stated that she honors veterans and their freedom to decide if they will play in smoke-free or smoke-filled gaming properties. She is concerned about their liberty and not the use of cigarettes. The legislature backs the proposed constitutional amendment and hopes an agreement will be made to handle the practice inside private clubs before the House conducts a full vote.
Most Local Casinos Lack Voluntary Smoking Bans
Most states in the country add casinos to their public smoking bans. However, New Jersey and Pennsylvania exempted gaming operators due to fears that most players who smoke would stop playing table games and slots.
Pennsylvania has 17 legal casinos. But, 15 of them allow indoor smoking on 50 percent of their floors. Parx Casino, a small casino in central Pennsylvania has a voluntary smoking ban. Parx earns the state its highest gaming revenue.
Even so, the smoke temporarily banned indoor smoking in all gaming venues during the global health crisis. Parx Casino’s management hasn’t witnessed a reduction in gaming profits due to the smoking ban. PA CEASE shares the same idea as it backs Frankel’s proposal.
The Pittsburgh Democrat hasn’t given up proposing the bill in several sessions before it got its first committee vote. Jennifer Rubolino is a PA CEASE administrator and table games dealer at Rivers Pittsburgh. She commented on the recent vote saying that it was a milestone in campaigning for a safe workplace for casino staff.
Rubolino added that they will continue campaigning for the bill until all casinos impose the smoking ban. She hopes the legislators will pass it in the House since workers’ health should be each gaming operator’s priority.
Frankel stated that most residents don’t smoke. Therefore, his bill allows them to get hefty paychecks at casinos without risking their health. Reports show that the state’s gaming sector has over 15,000 workers.
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