MGM Resorts recently announced that Park MGM and the accompanying NoMad will be completely smoke-free when they reopen on September 30th. This is momentous news as it will be the only fully smoke-free casino and resort in Las Vegas. Vdara, another MGM resort, is also smoke-free, but does not have its own casino.
Vegas casinos may seem like a public-health holdover from yesteryear, but according to the American Lung Association, only 28 states have truly comprehensive smoke-free laws. Nevada’s policies are actually more strict than several others. But Vegas casinos and smoke go hand and secondhand. The gambling halls that line the Strip and downtown are a smoking tourist’s paradise. For non-smokers, it’s an accepted annoyance that lingers until the bags are unpacked and our vacation clothes washed.
Are there enough non-smoking gamblers?
A smoke-free casino is a novelty in Vegas, but will there be enough pink-lunged gamblers to keep the coffers full? In other markets, smoke-free casinos work because they have to work. In my home state of Illinois, a 2008 law prohibited smoking on casino floors. There’s a debate about the financial impact of the ban, though casino officials claim receipts dropped as a result. Nonetheless, gambling in the state continues.
Park MGM is purposefully dismissing an entire segment of consumers. Smokers have other options steps away, so they simply wont go. It would be a disruptive gambling experience if they did. Park MGM is one of the easier casinos to navigate, but having to leave a table or a slot machine and head to the exits for a quick drag just isn’t in the cards.
As of 2018, the CDC estimates about 14% of Americans 18 or older are smokers. This has been continuously declining. Anecdotally, it seems like gamblers are far more likely to smoke than the general public. Perhaps it’s the potentially addictive nature of both hobbies. A 2008 University of Nevada study, however, indicates that may not actually be the case. The study’s authors found that, for Las Vegas specifically, the percentage of gamblers who smoke was found to be around 21%. This is higher than the public average today, but in line with the general rate at the time.
I know I’ll make a point of visiting this clean aired embassy of the Strip whenever I am actually able to make it to town again. They’re not Vegas, but I do enjoy the smoke-free floors here in Illinois. I like being able to go home without having to put my jacket in the freezer. This actually works, by the way. I imagine this change will make it easier to sell my wife on future trips as well — smoke is the primary nuisance preventing her from enjoying Strip strolls. It may make those currently family planning more likely to consider Vegas as a baby moon destination as well.
Employees are the winners
The immediate beneficiaries of this policy are Park MGM’s employees, namely the staff on the floor. Secondhand smoke is a considerable health risk for casino employees. I’m sure they appreciate being able to work in a cleaner environment. Some casino ventilation systems are better than others, but even the best can’t eliminate the health risks completely. The pumped in tropical scent is just olfactory lipstick.
The casino resort has had mixed reviews since its somewhat recent rebranding. I hope this move serves Park MGM well. The employees are deserving of a bustling casino and plenty of tokes. I’m happy that non-smokers are finally being offered something more than a small, glass enclosed slot parlor. This isn’t meant to denigrate smokers. It’s their choice and I don’t begrudge them whatsoever. Outside of Vegas, I don’t encounter smoke much at all, but when I do, if brief, it’s weirdly enjoyable. Secondhand smoke, while hazardous, is an oddly pleasant reminder of Vegas visits for me. Unfortunately for smoking gamblers, they have one less place to play. For now though, they still have plenty of casinos where they can turn cash into chips.
What do you think of Park MGM’s decision to go completely smoke-free? Will this be a boom or bust for business?