Park MGM Takes Gamble on Nonsmoking Casino

Park MGM announced on Monday that the property will reopen on September 30. There were rumors, backed up by a picture of a sign, that Park MGM would be nonsmoking when it reopened.

At the time, the NBA and NHL were looking for bubble cities. One educated guess was that Park MGM was being held off the market to accommodate teams if that happened. It never materialized.

This marks the first time a major Las Vegas Strip casino became entirely nonsmoking. Silver City Casino tried it for a few months in 1991.

MGM Resorts already expanded nonsmoking areas

MGM Resorts rolled out special nonsmoking sections at its Las Vegas casinos upon reopening after the pandemic closures. I have not noticed any changes that make me think there has been a problem. For example, the entire Mirage poker room was converted into a nonsmoking slots area.

It must be going well enough for MGM Resorts to open an entirely smoke-free resort on the Las Vegas Strip. The free publicity alone may be worth it.

Success of nonsmoking properties across country

There has been mixed success across the country when casinos voluntarily go nonsmoking in a jurisdiction. The most publicized example was Revel in Atlantic City. It opened as a nonsmoking casino and later opened smoking areas. While Revel eventually failed, the smoking policy does not seem like it played a part.

Palace Casino in Biloxi went nonsmoking upon reopening after Hurricane Katrina. It continues to be the only nonsmoking casino in the market. The company has always stated publicly that it had a positive impact on the property.

Ho-Chunk Casino in Madison, Wisconsin went nonsmoking in 2015. It remains that way to this day.

Park MGM is different from market wide smoking bans

Park MGM is making a decision like the others mentioned above. That gives it a niche other casinos in the market do not cover.

Nearly all nonsmoking casinos in the country do it because local or state law requires it. This has not always turned out well in terms of gaming revenues. The St. Louis Federal Reserve noted in 2009 that an Illinois statewide smoking ban that covered casinos lowered gaming revenues as smokers drove to border casinos in other states. The same stories were reported out of Colorado, Montana and South Dakota.

It was time for a casino to take this gamble

I thought a Las Vegas casino would have tried this five to ten years ago. I figured the first would be a more upscale locals casino. However, it makes sense that a major Strip company would give it a go. It has far less to lose as customers can choose one of its other properties, most within walking distance, if the patron is a smoker. There is less risk if a player can just go to the casino next door as opposed to one in a different neighborhood.

I suspect this will not be the last Las Vegas casino to go nonsmoking. However, I think it will come from the company making the decision. I feel strongly that a casino smoking ban does not have enough support in Nevada to become the law.

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