For decades, smoking in land-based casinos was accepted. In September this year, state representative Dan Frankel introduced a bill seeking to end the smoking loophole in the Pennsylvania Clean Indoor Air Act. This law permits casinos to allow indoor smoking in half of a gaming space. Frankel says arguments that banning smoking inside casinos adversely impacts tax revenue and jobs are outdated. Many customers prefer smoke-free environments today.
Parx generates the most revenue despite being smoke-free
After the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, Parx Casino made the decision to stay smoke-free. The decision proved to be a sound one as it did not negatively affect its revenue. Parx Casino managed to generate a GGR of approximately $50 million in August 2023. This was the most revenue generated in all 18 land-based casinos in the state.
Last year, the land-based casino generated GGR of nearly $394 million from its slot machines alone. Parx also operates a PA online casino where players can play slot and table games using their mobile phones.
It’s time to end smoking in casinos
Richard Schuetz, a former regulator and casino veteran, recently expressed in a House Health Committee hearing that he believes it’s time to end smoking in casinos. Second-hand smoke in casinos is toxic and studies show its impact on health. There are too many people who lose life to smoking. He cited that CDC research concludes that ventilation systems don’t eliminate second-hand smoke health hazards.
Schuetz had a long career in the industry working alongside important figures in making the Las Vegas Strip what it is today. His knowledge of the industry means his views carry weight.
Casino workers testify
Pennsylvania casino workers also attended the hearing to testify. Those who enjoy outdoor activities and do what they can to protect their health have to suffer due to the second-hand smoke in their work environment. Parx and its satellite mini-casino in Shippensburg are the only two casinos in Pennsylvania with fully smoke-free spaces for gaming.
Jen Rubolino, a table games dealer, believes that casino workers deserve fresh air and shouldn’t have to choose between their health and a paycheck. She is a co-leader of Pennsylvania’s chapter of CEASE. This is an organization that supports employee’s efforts to ban smoking in casinos.
Smoke-free casinos are becoming a business imperative
More casinos are realizing that they need to exercise social responsibility and transition to smoke-free environments to protect workers and customers. Socially conscious investors expect this of them. One of the key drivers is that many young adults are non-smokers. This could affect the ability of casinos that aren’t smoke-free to attract players and employees in the future.