Legislation 2022-H 7855

Rhode Island: Rep. Tanzi joins casino workers' call to include gaming venues in proposed smoking ban law

Representative Teresa A. Tanzi.
2022-05-27
United States
Reading time 2:10 min

Representative Teresa A. Tanzi joined Wednesday members of the union that represent workers at Rhode Island’s casinos in calling for passage of her legislation to include casinos in the state’s law prohibiting smoking in workplaces.

Tanzi is sponsoring legislation 2022-H 7855 to remove the exemption for gaming facilities in the Public Health and Workplace Safety Act, a move supported by Laborers International Union of North America, Local 271, which represents casino workers in Rhode Island.

Casino workers are Rhode Islanders, parents, caregivers, taxpayers and human beings, and they deserve the same protection as everyone else in our state”, Tanzi said, according to What’s Up in Newport. Tarzi's legislation was heard by the House Finance Committee on April 13 and held for future study.  

It is fundamentally wrong to say that no one should be exposed to secondhand smoke in the workplace, but carve out an exception that leaves one group of workers not only unprotected, but in fact bathed in smoke every day," she added. "There’s no excuse for continuing to endanger their health, and we need to pass this bill to let them breathe safely like everyone else." 

When Rhode Island’s two casinos reopened in June 2020 following a mandatory COVID-19 shutdown, indoor smoking was prohibited as a safety measure. But in March 2022, smoking was reinstated on designated areas of gaming floors.  

Supporters point out that allowing smoking is no longer necessary for successful business in casinos, given Massachusetts and most Connecticut properties, for instance, do not allow indoor smoking. The Encore Boston Harbor casino, which is 100% smoke-free, is the top competitor for the casinos in the area, biting into Rhode Island’s revenue from table games, video lottery terminals and sports.

This is not the only jurisdiction debating whether to implement this measure. The union that represents casino dealers in Atlantic City has also called on New Jersey lawmakers to prohibit smoking in casinos, backing a casino smoking ban proposal that has been gaining momentum in the legislature.  

Back in April, and following a rally organized by the group Casino Employees Against Smoking’s (Harmful) Effects (CEASE), the United Auto Workers sent a letter to state legislators urging them to hold hearings on legislation that could close a loophole in state law, which eliminated smoking in all New Jersey workplaces sixteen years ago while specifically exempting casinos and simulcasting facilities. 

The Local 54 of the Unite Here union -the other major casino workers’ union in Atlantic City-, however, has sent a letter to Senate President Nicholas Scutari, urging him not to greenlight the prohibition, as it is thought to lead to decreased profitability and fewer jobs at a crucial time for Atlantic City casinos. 

However, recent reports indicated the ban proposal has been gaining momentum in the legislature, continuing to earn sponsors. New Jersey’s Democratic governor Phil Murphy has assured that he would sign the ban, should it pass. 

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