Confirming rumors from two months ago, Park MGM announced Monday that when it reopens, it will be the first-ever smoke-free casino on the Las Vegas Strip. It has scheduled its reopening for September 30; Park MGM is the only MGM property still closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The last six months have presented extraordinary challenges and I could not be prouder of the MGM Resorts team for the tireless effort required to get us here,” said MGM Resorts CEO and president Bill Hornbuckle. “There is much work ahead as we remain focused on the health and safety of our employees and guests, but this is an important moment for us.”
Smoking has gone hand-in-hand with gambling for ages, so this decision could be a risk for Park MGM, once known as the Monte Carlo. At the same time, however, this could be a differentiator for the property, as there are likely plenty of Las Vegas visitors who want to spend time in a casino, but can’t stand the smoke. This will give them a one-of-a-kind option.
Local historian David G. Schwartz told CNN that this is a natural evolution for the Las Vegas gaming industry.
“While there have been many casinos outside of Las Vegas that have been smoke-free, this is the first time a Las Vegas resort of this size is going smoke-free,” he said, “It shows how the casino gaming industry’s position on smoking is evolving.”
As Schwartz mentioned, other casinos around the country have gone smoke-free. Maryland doesn’t allow smoking. Right now, during the pandemic, no smoking is permitted in Atlantic City casinos. Detroit’s commercial casinos are not allowed to have smoking on the casino floor. The list goes on.
The timing of the decision likely played a factor. With health and safety regulations still in effect because of the COVID-19 pandemic, banning smoking is easier right now. It can keep people safer on a couple different levels (aside from smoking just generally being bad for one’s health). First, those who might have COVID-19 symptoms would almost certainly have them exacerbated by smoke. Now, hopefully, someone with virus symptoms will stay home, but we know that won’t happen all of the time. And second, smoking is an activity in which people literally intentionally inhale and exhale smoke. Moisture particulates will end up in that smoke and spread to other casinos patrons and staff.
And though banning smoking might be a risk for Park MGM, why not try it now? Visitor traffic was down 70 percent in June compared to the same time last month. And while business has ticked up a bit since, they are still severely depressed. Might as well try something new and different and hey, actually healthy.