Ed Komenda, Reno Gazette Journal
Published 11:01 p.m. ET Sept. 30, 2020
The Las Vegas Strip is slowly awakening after a nearly 80-day slumber due to the coronavirus crisis.
LAS VEGAS – The ashtrays are gone.
The card table view is clear.
The air is crisp.
“My clothes aren’t smelling,” said 81-year-old Pete Thorne, standing near a slot machine inside Park MGM – the Las Vegas Strip’s first smoke-free hotel-casino.
The MGM Resorts property reopened Wednesday for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the resort for seven months, but its return came with a new rule and the first of its kind on The Strip: No smoking.
Scattered around the casino were signs reminding guests of the ban that limits lighting up to three designated areas outside the building:
As the COVID-19 death toll rises across the U.S., smoking inside casinos has resurfaced as a make-or-break detail for travelers planning vacations, and companies like MGM Resorts are now restricting where visitors can puff tobacco.
Visiting guests warmly received the smokeless atmosphere.
“It’s the greatest thing in the world,” said 72-year-old Jane Stalls, of Storden, Minn. “I hate sitting next to people who smoke. Anytime someone sits next to me smoking, I move.”
Guests can smoke in three places: The Rideshare Zone off the main lobby, the front door of NoMad Hotel attached to Park MGM, and the Central Park Terrace on the second floor of the convention center.
Smokers like Kendra Haggerty, of Iowa’s Council Bluffs, didn’t mind the change.
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While she enjoys a cigarette every now and again, she doesn’t identify with the classic Las Vegas casino chain smoker – the gamblers puffing on a new smoke every 10 minutes.
“It’s nice that people have the option to visit a smoke-free casino,” she said.
Walter Jack, a 39-year-old Floridian who visited Park on Tuesday to see the smokeless environment, respects MGM’s choice to ban smoking, but he doesn’t expect smoke-free casinos to become a norm on The Strip.
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“To each his own,” he said. “You have to match your clientele. Some people like to come to Las Vegas to indulge in smoking. Others view smoking as unhealthy.”