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Are Pennsylvania Casinos Ready to Become Smoke-Free?

Cigarette smoking may be banned in various indoor spaces and airplanes in the U.S., but patrons in some casinos are still puffing away. The relationship between gamblers and smoking is undeniable, and although smoking is not permitted in some casinos and others have designated smoking areas, there are those that don’t seem ready to become smoke-free.

Pennsylvania casinos

In Pennsylvania, casinos can allow smoking on up to 50% of the casino floor. It is not permitted in areas like entertainment venues, restaurants, clubs, meeting areas, and lobbies. Lawmakers have already introduced two bills to limit smoking to no more than 25% of the casino floor.

A temporary ban was placed on smoking in casinos during the pandemic. When the state lifted the ban, Parx Casino, one of the most popular PA online casinos, remained smoke-free, but 14 licensed casinos in Pennsylvania went back to allowing smoking again once the ban was lifted.

Why many casinos don’t want to ban smoking

Some casino managers defend the policy of allowing smoking in casinos because it feeds their business. They say not allowing smoking will alienate a large group of customers and this will result in lower revenue. They don’t believe smoke-free casinos are economically viable. The casino industry is extremely competitive, and they believe making a casino smoke-free makes them lose their competitive edge.

Casinos listen to their patrons

There are clearly still patrons who want to smoke in casinos but there are others that are aware that smoking kills and have become non-smokers. They prefer not to be exposed to second-hand smoke while gambling. Casino managers tend to defer to state and local officials with regard to smoking policies and they also try to accommodate the needs of both smokers and non-smokers.

Measures to accommodate non-smokers

Having non-smoking sections to accommodate non-smokers is seen as a solution. The Washington County casino not only separates smoking and non-smoking areas but uses high ceilings and ventilation systems. Several casinos have built elaborate smoking patios, some of which have exhaust fans and heat lamps.

Do these measures work?

Casino smoking areas and ventilation systems do not adequately address the health hazards to casino employees and patrons. They are still exposed to second-hand smoke. The CDC reports that 41,000 deaths every year in the U.S. are related to second-hand smoke exposure.

Various organizations are pushing to make all casinos smoke-free. Smoking increases the risk for disease of the heart, lungs and vascular system. It can also lead to infertility as infertility rates in both male and female smokers are about twice the rate in non-smokers.

Looking forward

Economic impact reports show that going smoke-free can have both health and economic benefits. As the conversation continues between opponents and those who want to ban smoking, it isn’t clear yet whether a shift is coming for the casino industry. Non-smoking areas in casinos continue to grow and the performance of smoke-free casinos suggests that they can thrive. This issue will continue to play out over the next few years.

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