House Finance Committee Votes to Advance HB 7500 to End Indoor Smoking at RI’s Two Casinos

RI Casino Workers Urge Prompt Full House Vote to Protect Health and Well-Being

CEASE logo - Casino Employees Against Smoking's Effects

June 14, 2024
Contact: ceasesmokingnj@gmail.com

Providence, RI—The Rhode Island House Finance Committee voted in favor of considering HB 7500, a legislative proposal aimed at closing the loophole that currently allows smoking within casinos. This decision marks a step toward enhancing the health and safety of both casino employees and patrons.

“We applaud the House Finance Committee and especially Speaker Shekarchi for recognizing the urgent need to address the dangers of secondhand smoke in our workplaces,” said Vanessa Baker, a table games dealer at Bally’s Twin River Casino and co-leader of CEASE RI. “By moving HB 7500 forward, we are one step closer in ensuring a healthier environment for all casino employees and visitors. We now urge the Rhode Island House of Representatives to bring HB 7500 to a full vote without delay. It’s critical that our lawmakers – who we’ve elected to lead – act swiftly to pass this bill, so that casino workers are provided the same protections as any other worker in the state.”
Last month casino workers joined casino workers, health advocates, and workers’ unions at the Rhode Island State Capitol for a day of action aimed at urging lawmakers to pass this comprehensive smokefree legislation. Representative Tanzi, long-time advocate and sponsor of HB 7500, joined workers to deliver a letter to State Treasurer James Diossa urging him to vote in favor of a proposal to study the potential cost savings through the adoption of a smokefree policy for Bally’s properties. The state of Rhode Island holds shares in Bally’s through its state pension fund.

“This long awaited, unanimous first step is proof that we have the support to move this out of the House and over to the Senate,” Representative Teresa Tanzi said. “It was a powerful moment, and appropriately puts pressure on Bally’s to either act on their own accord this summer, or we will make it happen by law when we return in January.”
“Ensuring a smokefree environment is absolutely crucial for the health and safety of all workers,” said Matthew Dunham, president of Table Games Dealers Laborers Local 711. “The passage of HB 7500 is vital to protect casino employees from the well-documented dangers of secondhand smoke. Yesterday’s vote was an important, though long-overdue step. This legislation is not just about protecting workers, but also about upholding fairness and equity. We strongly encourage the House to act quickly and decisively to pass this legislation, and to stop treating Rhode Island casino workers and patrons like second class citizens.”

Recently, Bally’s Corporation announced the opening of a new section designated for non-smoking at its Twin River casino in Lincoln, RI. However, casino workers and studies emphasize that such measures are insufficient, as non-smoking sections fail to address the pervasive issue of secondhand smoke exposure in casinos. Smoking sections, smoking rooms, and ventilation systems do not address the health hazards of secondhand smoke, according to CDC, the US Surgeon General, and ASHRAE.

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Casino Employees Against Smoking (Harmful) Effects (CEASE) is a group of thousands of casino dealers and other frontline gaming workers that formed after indoor smoking returned on July 4, 2021 in Atlantic City, NJ and has expanded to states around the country. CEASE is fighting to permanently remove smoking from our workplaces. For more information, visit ceasesmoking.org.