After a pandemic shutdown in March, Park MGM plans to reopen at the end of September as a nonsmoking casino and hotel. It's the first Las Vegas resort that won't welcome smokers. "Let's clear the air. Park MGM is smoke-free," its website announced Monday.
The new policy applies to MGM as well as NoMad, its hotel within a hotel. "It's something that we're looking forward to definitely continuing for the long future," said Anton Nikodemus, who heads the company's Las Vegas properties. "As we had seen an increasing amount ... of guests looking for a nonsmoking alternative … we finally felt now would be the best time to make that decision."
The hotel-casino, which includes Bavette's Steakhouse, Primrose and Italian marketplace Eataly, will reopen Sept. 30. The former Monte Carlo opened two years ago with all nonsmoking guest rooms. State law also banned smoking in restaurants, but Park MGM's casino allowed players to smoke until coronavirus forced all Nevada casinos to close March 17.
"While we've had it closed, we purchased all new carpet for the casino," Nikodemus said. "We redid the ceiling lighting and new paint. And [there are] new wall coverings around the entire exterior of the casino. It is a brand-new, fresh casino experience for our customers when they return."
Las Vegas observers say the timing may be right for a smoke-free resort. "If it was ever going to work, now would probably be the time," said Anthony Curtis, publisher of Las Vegas Advisor, a newsletter for visitors.
"I think that everybody's trying to find something that's going to be unique given the (COVID) situation," he added. "Vegas is fighting for tourists again. … They're fighting for that dollar."
The publication in August polled readers on whether they agreed with the idea of a smoke-free casino. The results, based on more than 1,500 votes, showed that 57% of respondents support some sort of smoking ban. Nearly 1 in 4 agreed with banning smoking in casinos.
Michael Green, an associate professor of history at University of Nevada Las Vegas, also agreed that a nonsmoking resort may prove successful. "I think we are seeing the future upon us," he said. "Our awareness of COVID, the masks and all that involves, is discouraging smoking further. … I don't think they'd do this until they think there is a demand."
MGM Resorts' eight other Vegas casinos already have set aside portions of their gaming floors for nonsmoking guests. Some smoke-free table games are available at Wynn-Encore. The poker room at the Venetian is also smoke-free.
Green said that based on the city's history, he doesn't expect other resorts to quickly ban smoking. "Las Vegas earned a reputation for being the place you went to do bad things that weren't necessarily good for you," he said. "Las Vegas has long encouraged this behavior."
But Green added that Park MGM's no-smoking policy may mean attitudes are changing.
"Does it mean that we will end up entirely with no-smoking properties on the Strip? I doubt that," he said. "[But] I wouldn't be amazed if at some point somebody advertises, 'Oh, come here, we'll let you smoke' if it does spread."