For many years, it was common for visitors to see ashtrays resting on slot machines and cigarette smoke rising from the casino floor. In the post Covid-19 world, however, that all changed.
When casinos were allowed to return to operation on July 4th, 2020, the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) released strict guidelines to prevent exposure to the virus. Those guidelines included a ban on indoor smoking since guests would have to remove their masks before “lighting up.” The ban is still in place for the playing floor but not other designated areas, hence the return of indoor smoking.
As of December 2022, two of Detroit’s commercial casinos are bringing indoor smoking back, MGM Grand Detroit and Hollywood Casino at Greektown. As of January 2023, the Gun Lake Casino, owned and operated by the Gun Lake Tribe, also joined MGM and Hollywood Casino at Greektown by creating an indoor smoking area.
Unsurprisingly, the recent policy change has led to a lot of debate between casino goers, and for good reason. Many are concerned with the health and safety of guests and employees of the casinos in question.
*For smokers, only cigarettes, cigars, and nicotine vapes are allowed within smoking areas. Michigan’s most popular smokable plant, cannabis, is still illegal to consume on any casino property in Michigan.*
The vast majority of non-smokers opposed to indoor smoking in casinos are upset because of secondhand smoke. At Hollywood Casino at Greektown, for example, the designated smoking area has no barriers to prevent smoke from lingering into other areas of the casino. The majority of the second floor allows smoking as of February 2023, with a small smoke-free section that is connected to the smoking floor. The first floor also is smoke-free, but clean air can still be polluted through the casino’s escalator opening.
At MGM Grand Detroit, smokers can choose between the smoking slots on the east side of the casino floor (formerly Clear I) and the smoking slots west (formerly Clear II). All other locations in the casino remain non-smoking. MGM Grand has glass doors in their smoking areas, but as many visitors have attested, the smell of smoke is still noticeable throughout the casino floor.
Others less concerned with the risk of secondhand smoke exposure were still concerned with the smell and atmosphere it would create. On one popular Michigan Casino Facebook page, one individual commented, “I smoke and don’t care to sit in it, so I can imagine how tough that is, for non smokers!!! Plus all that smoke, in that little ass area, GROSS!!”
Other guests mentioned how enjoyable it has been at the casino since smoking was prohibited.
The risk of secondhand smoke exposure to employees is one of the most mentioned concerns surrounding the smoking topic. Casinos are the only business in Michigan that have an exception to the Smoke Free Air Laws. The Smoke Free Laws or Smoke Free Air Laws were a series of state laws and restrictions that swept the nation in the 90s and 2000s. The movement started with a ban on indoor workplace smoking and most indoor establishments in California in 1995 before banning indoor smoking outright in 1998. The Smoke Free Air Act was introduced in Michigan in 2006 and later strengthened in 2010. Although smoking is prohibited in every other establishment in Michigan, casinos are still plagued with the problem, and the recent reopenings have caused many organizations to bring attention to the issue, giving a voice to thousands of casino employees.
For example, the Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects (CEASE) are urging New Jersey legislators to ban smoking in casinos by April 15th, 2023. The group released a video with numerous casino workers expressing their support for the message.
CEO of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, Cynthia Hallet also released a statement following the changes in Michigan.
“Detroit casino workers are receiving the equivalent of coal in their stockings this week. After more than two years of a safe workplace, these workers will now have to choose between their health and a paycheck . . . even though only 12% of people in the United States smoke, some casinos continue to prioritize perceived profits from this dwindling group over the health of their workers. Times have changed,” said Hallet. “The majority of casino customers prefer a smokefree environment, and research shows that casinos without indoor smoking generate more revenue than their smoke-filled competitors. Casino companies with properties in Detroit also run smokefree casinos in cities across the country. Detroit workers deserve the same safe atmosphere as their counterparts elsewhere. We urge MGM Detroit and Greektown to reverse this decision and encourage MotorCity to maintain its smokefree indoor air policy.”
What do you think? Are BetMGM, Greektown, and the Gun Lake Casino making the right call?
Mac Daniel is a Michigan native and freelance writer for PlayOnlineCasino and PlayOnlineSportsBetting. He has experience writing about a wide variety of topics, including healthcare, tourism, non-profit organizations, and most recently casino and sportsbetting news. To check out more of his work, visit: playonlinemichigan.com