Will Park MGM no-smoking policy set a trend in Las Vegas?

  • Public health advocates are commending MGM Resorts International’s decision to establish the first smoke-free casino on the Strip in decades.
  • However, some industry observers and experts feel the party hasn’t started yet.
  • While some analysts say the decision to make Park MGM smoke-free seems to have come late, others feel time for a smoke-free Strip casino hasn’t come yet.
  • One resort official says he is observing to see what happens at Park MGM.

Public health advocates are applauding MGM Resorts International’s establishment of the first smoke-free casino on the Strip in decades. However, industry observers say it’s too early to know whether Park MGM will be a trendsetter or a one-off experiment.

The resort will reopen Wednesday since the mid-March closure, but this time, the property won’t allow smoking. Park MGM will become the first-ever on the Strip since the now-inoperative Silver City Casino went non-smoking from 1991-1994 before its owners decided to allow smoking on the premises, citing revenue declines.

The Southern Nevada District tobacco control coordinator Malcolm Ahlo feels the move is in response to a shifting public attitude toward lighting up. He said two decades ago, “the appetite for casinos going smoke-free” was almost zero. Today, it looks like Park MGM has delayed making the decision.

The American Lung Association’s senior director of advocacy for the Southwest region, JoAnna Strother, referred to the decision as “a landmark for the Strip, Las Vegas, and Nevada,” adding that casinos and gaming venues were among the few public areas where employees and patrons were are the risk of encountering high levels of second-hand smoke indoors.

The American Lung Association estimates that second-hand smoke is responsible for at least 40,000 deaths in the country.

Gaming industry observer and professor at UNLV’s College of Hospitality said other Las Vegas casinos are likely to follow in the footsteps of Park MGM with time. He said it’s hard to imagine that public indoor spaces will have people lighting up in 20 years to come.

The Tropicana assistant general manager, Mike Thoma, said that while the Strip resort isn’t planning to go smoke-free, “he was watching what happens at the Park MGM.”

Nevada historian and associate professor at UNLV, Michael Green, said the reaction of consumers will likely determine whether other Strip resorts follow suit. Green added that he feels “it’s going to work.”

In a news release, Park MGM’s parent company, MGM Resorts, said visitor demand played a role in the smoking policy decision but declined to comment further.

Public Health Reports journal surveyed at least 4,000 adults in the country in 2017 and found that approximately 75% strongly or fairly supported non-smoking casinos.

Gaming analyst Barry Jonas said casinos that disallow smoking could go down financially, not because smokers won’t come, but that their “smoke breaks” will interrupt gaming flow. Once they go outside to smoke, it’s easy for them to decide to go elsewhere or back home, he said.

Jonas said that while there may be a place for smoke-free casinos on the Strip, he doubts it will become the standard soon.

I'm Adam Shaw, Senior Editor and one of the first members at VegasSlots. I'm a massive football sports fan but also love casinos and occasional trips to Las Vegas. Gaming runs in the family

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