Casinotes: No smoking continues at Rivers Casino plus Joe Rogan experiences Atlantic City

Joe Rogan standing in front of a brick wall. The picture includes graphic writing that reads, "Joe Rogan, Friday, June 3, on sale now at"
The controversial podcaster stops by the Philly area this June.

Patrons and staffers at Rivers Casino Philadelphia can breathe easily: Smoking remains prohibited on the casino floor.

Without any public announcement, on April 29, the Fishtown gambling den decided to keep in place the casino smoking ban that was instituted in July 2020 by executive order of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf. That edict was lifted a year later, but Rivers, along with Bensalem-based Parx and Mount Airy Casino Resort in the Pocono Mountains, never reverted back to allowing smoking in their gaming spaces. Under state law, Pennsylvania gaming halls can assign up to 50 percent of the casino floor for smoking.

Nonetheless, those opposed to the carcinogenic coping mechanism have not completely excised the activity from the 12-year-old entertainment complex: Those who indulge can still puff in peace on the patio of Jack’s Bar or outside designated entrances. If you’re wondering what a total ban looks like, take a look at some hospital campuses where there are no places, inside or outside, where smoking is ever allowed technically.

Executives at Rivers and its corporate parent, Rush Street Gaming of Chicago, have not been made available to the media in order to address the continuation of the ban. Instead, the casino released a terse statement: 

“Rivers Casino Philadelphia has decided to extend its temporary ban on indoor smoking for now. An outdoor patio has been designated for smokers, and guests have complied without issue. Rivers Casino Philadelphia will continue to monitor feedback, which has been positive.”

Interestingly, the above paragraph suggests it isn’t a mortal lock that the last stogie has been smoked in Rivers’ casino: The phrase “for now” seems to imply the smoking ban isn’t yet cast in stone for all the ages; it’s logical to assume that if revenue declines and if it’s determined the cause is the prohibition of smoking, casino suits will at least discuss a change of direction.

Bucking history and popular perception

The move flies in the face of decades-long accepted wisdom that smoking goes with gambling as peanut butter goes with jelly. For instance, it’s widely held that the failure of Atlantic City’s Revel, now Ocean Casino-Resort, found its origins in fairly large part in its total ban on smoking throughout the property. Today, Ocean permits smoking in designated sections of the casino. As such, it has been an article of faith in the legal-gaming industry that prohibiting smoking on the casino floor would negatively impact the bottom lines of casinos that do so. 

Or, so everyone thought.

However, according to CDC Gaming Report, both Mount Airy and Parx each earned more from in-person (as opposed to online) gambling during the first three months of 2022 than they did in the corresponding quarter in the pre-COVID year of 2019.

Is AyCee next?

Rivers’ move and the numbers from the other two properties could have an impact on the ongoing campaign to impose complete casino-floor smoking prohibition in Atlantic City’s nine casinos. Currently, those properties can set aside up to 25 percent of their gaming spaces for smokers.

Seashore casino operators insist such a ban would severely impact revenue, which in turn could cost thousands of employees their jobs. But those lobbying in favor of prohibition counter that the issue is not money but the health of casino-floor workers as well as patrons that’s on the line. 

Polls have suggested that a solid majority of New Jersey adults favor total prohibition.

Hard Rock hooks Rogan

Tickets are now on sale for the June appearances by controversial comedian/podcast superstar Joe Rogan at Hard Rock Hotel Casino Atlantic City.

Rogan and his “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast have emerged as culture-war lightning rods. Earlier this year, he was the subject of protests by those who objected to his providing a forum for COVID-19 disinformation – which led to several musical acts including Crosby, Stills & Nash and Neil Young – to remove their music from Spotify, a leading platform for the podcast. He also stirred the pot with his use of the N-word which, he insisted, was used in a specific context and not as a racial slur. Given that Rogan has said it dozens if not hundreds of times over a decade, people can decide whether or not there is a specific context warranting the word’s use.

Show time is 8 p.m. on both days. Tickets are available online.

‘Burlesque’ back at Borgata

The ninth annual edition of “The Burlesque Show” was supposed to debut at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in April 2020. But a little thing called COVID-19 had other ideas, and the popular salute to the classic burlesque format of the mid-20th century was put on ice.

Finally, the show—which combines “tasteful” striptease turns with raunchy comedy—is back on the boards. The new season—billed as a “best of” compilation culled from the previous eight versions—debuted earlier this month at the Music Box theater and continues through the summer.

Although admission is limited to the over-21 crowd, be advised that the program doesn’t feature full nudity, which is prohibited by New Jersey law in any venue that offers alcoholic beverages. As such, the featured artists strip down to pasties and G-strings. Most reasonable folks feel his doesn’t affect the show.

This will be the first “Burlesque Show” not headlined by the hilarious Jeff Pirrami. The self-styled “fat rat bastard,” who was the heart-and-soul of the production (on- and off-stage), died of heart disease in 2020. He’s been replaced by standup comic Chris Morris, whom, promises creator-producer Allen Valentine, will follow in Pirrami’s dirty-joke-spewing footsteps, but with what he described as slightly less of an “edge.”

The revue runs Thursdays through the end of September. Show time is 9 p.m. Admission is $17.50. 

Danza brings live act to Live!

Sitcom icon Tony Danza is headed to Live! Casino Hotel Philadelphia. Danza, who rose to stardom in a supporting role on “Taxi and followed that with headliner success on “Who’s the Boss?” will perform at the South Philly gaming hall June 11.

In case you’re wondering what, exactly, Danza does in his live act, the program, dubbed “Standards & Stories,” will feature him showing off several talents he seldom, if ever, got to display on his TV shows: Look for him to perform songs in the Frank Sinatra vein, perform a few dance moves, and even play ukulele. Connecting each of these segments will be stories from his life and career.

If anything, it sounds like an interesting way to spend an evening. Plus, can you ever go wrong with a ukulele?

Show time is 8 p.m. Admission is $79-$59.

    • Chuck Darrow headshot

      Chuck Darrow has spent more than four decades as a writer and broadcaster specializing in covering the Philadelphia region's arts, entertainment and casinos. He is still afraid he may one day have to work for a living. 

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