A Pennsylvania House committee has narrowly advanced a measure to close the indoor smoking loophole that has allowed casinos to permit smoking since 2008. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Dan Frankel, who chairs the House Health Committee, seeks to make the state’s brick-and-mortar casinos smoke-free. Frankel’s legislation would also remove indoor smoking privileges for private clubs and bars where alcohol accounts for the majority of revenue.
The vote on Frankel’s bill was divided along party lines, with all 14 Democrats on the committee voting in favor of the bill, while all 10 Republicans voted against it. The gaming industry has argued that a smoking ban would negatively impact gaming revenue and result in reduced tax revenue, potentially putting thousands of jobs at stake. However, a 2022 study by casino consultancy C3 Gaming found that smoking bans do not have adverse effects on gaming revenue, and in fact, non-smoking properties appear to be performing better than those that allow smoking.
Of the 17 casinos in Pennsylvania, all but two have designated smoking areas on their gaming floors. Anti-smoking advocates have celebrated the historic committee passage of the bill, with casino workers in the grassroots coalition CEASE expressing their support for a healthier workplace. However, the odds of the bill passing and becoming law remain uncertain, as Democrats hold the narrowest of majorities in the House, while Republicans control the state Senate.
Supporters of the bill argue that it’s long past time to protect Pennsylvania workers in casinos, bars, and clubs from secondhand smoke and that employees should not be forced to choose between their jobs and their health. The bill will now move to the full House of Representatives for further consideration in the coming weeks.