Casino smoking gets panel approval

Harrisburg — Smokers would be allowed to puff away when they’re gambling at slot machines in Pennsylvania casinos, under an amendment adopted by the Senate Rules Committee yesterday.

The pro-smoking amendment is among a package of 31 changes to Act 71 of 2004, the law that will bring 14 slots casinos to Pennsylvania.

The whole package — expected to be approved in the Senate today — also includes an amendment by Sen. Jane Orie, R-McCandless, to make the use of slots suppliers optional. Currently the use of such middlemen is mandatory.

The exact wording of the smoking amendment says that state law will „pre-empt local smoking ordinances for gambling facilities.“

The net effect, said Gary Tuma, an aide to Sen. Vincent Fumo, D-Philadephia, is that counties, cities and other local municipalities would not be allowed to ban smoking at a casino in their locality. That power will be reserved for the state Gaming Control Board, but it isn’t expected to exercise it. Legislative leaders named four of the seven board members and Gov. Ed Rendell named the other three.

Mr. Tuma said Philadelphia legislators were worried that if smoking were banned in the two stand-alone casinos coming to the city of Philadelphia, gamblers would simply flock to the two suburban casinos that will be part of racetracks in Bucks and Delaware counties.

But it also means Allegheny County and the city of Pittsburgh won’t be able to ban smoking at the one stand-alone casino earmarked for Pittsburgh.