LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — It’s been almost a year and a half since Park MGM reopened as a smoke-free resort, a breath of fresh air among Las Vegas casinos where gamblers have long accepted the stale odor of cigarette smoke as part of the deal.

And while Park MGM customers welcome the no-smoking rules in reviews on hotel booking sites like Priceline, MGM remains reserved, saying little publicly about the change. The fact that it remains smoke-free might be the biggest signal from MGM that the new model is working.

When the resort opened its doors in September 2020, almost six months after the Strip shut down as the COVID-19 pandemic began, the move to smoke-free seemed like a sign of the times. There was speculation that it could be the start of a healthy trend. But the trend has been slow to reveal itself.

An electronic sign reads “NOW OPEN” outside the Park MGM Grand Las Vegas Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Thursday, June 4, 2020. Photographer: Joe Buglewicz/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The American Lung Association and the Culinary Union were among the early voices in support of the resort’s new approach.

“It is really a landmark decision for the Strip in Las Vegas,” said Joanna Strother, senior director of advocacy for the American Lung Association (ALA).

“We are excited to see this trend develop, which is an important step forward for protections from secondhand smoke and lung health,” Strother said. “Casinos and other gaming establishments remain one of the few public places where employees and patrons are likely to encounter secondhand smoke indoors at high levels.”

A directory of smoke-free gaming establishments lists only seven places in Nevada among 1,036 U.S. casinos, card rooms, horse tracks, dog tracks, off-track betting facilities and Indian casinos that are 100% smoke free:

  • Aces and Ales (Las Vegas, on Nellis Boulevard)
  • Aces and Ales (Las Vegas, on Tenaya Way)
  • Park MGM (Las Vegas Strip)
  • The Sand Dollar Lounge (Las Vegas)
  • Gold ‘N Silver Inn (Reno)
  • Reno-Tahoe International Airport Slots (Reno)
  • Fernley Nugget (Fernley)

MGM notes that three of its hotels — Delano, The Signature and Vdara — are smoke-free. The conversation about smoke-free casinos has sidestepped those properties because the hotels don’t have casinos attached.

Currently, all eyes are on New Jersey as Atlantic City, where momentum is building to close a loophole that allows smoking on casino floors. Recent coverage from Forbes shows that dire predictions about casino profits and lost jobs — a report produced by the Casino Association of New Jersey — is “rife with erroneous assumptions.”

Strother of the American Lung Association noted the benefits companies could see by following Park MGM’s lead, such as lower healthcare costs for workers’ health insurance.

“Businesses taking it on voluntarily shows some great leadership in the state,” she said.

Wednesday, March 9, is National No Smoking Day, a day to reach out to friends or family members who suffer from nicotine addiction. A 2019 estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that 14% of Americans are smokers.

MGM Resorts provided this statement:

It is important for guests to have a variety of choices on the Strip, and Park MGM’s smoke-free environment reflects that. Las Vegas, more than any other destination, is about tailoring offerings and experiences specifically to what people want — and many guests have made clear that they appreciate having the option of a smoke-free casino. We are fortunate to have such a variety of properties on the Strip, as that allows us flexibility to appeal to all preferences.

MGM Resorts International

Strother said Nevada remains one of 22 states that does not have a comprehensive statewide smoke-free law.

“The American Lung Association will continue to advocate for strong smoke-free laws and policies. We strongly urge other casinos in Nevada to adopt a similar smoke-free policy for the health and safety of casino workers and patrons alike,” she said.

The pandemic brought a good deal of attention to air movement and ventilation inside businesses. And that’s an area where casinos were already doing a lot of work.

The Nevada Resort Association notes, “The resort industry has continued to place a high priority on air quality and has invested heavily in advanced technology throughout the resorts that circulates fresh air and removes smoke and odors.”

The Resort Association’s statement continues, “From specialized ventilation and filtration systems to air-handling units located at table games and the bases of gaming devices, the industry continues to utilize the latest innovations for the benefit of employees and guests. As part of our members’ ongoing assessment of the latest health and safety protocols, they continually review their HVAC systems; have enacted additional measures to maximize the exchange of fresh air; and have increased the frequency of air filter replacement and system cleaning.”