The return of indoor smoking sections to some retail casinos in Michigan has become a very hot topic.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all casinos were required to prohibit indoor smoking. In recent months, we’ve seen multiple Michigan casinos start incorporating its return.
While smokers are happy to be able to avoid stepping outdoors, others are unhappy with the health risks associated with second-hand smoke.
This week, I decided to get a feel for these indoor smoking areas myself and see if it would be a hindrance for me to play as a non-smoker.
My experience with indoor smoking sections at Detroit Casinos
MGM Grand Detroit indoor smoking area
My first stop was the MGM Grand Detroit. As a non-smoker, it didn’t take long for the stale smoke stench to hit my nostrils.
Upon first entering the gaming floor from the parking garage, it hit right away.
It wasn’t hard to find the two smoking areas. Smoking Slots West was right past my entrance, while Smoking Slots East was just a little further ahead.
Each area was walled off with glass. Entrances to the sections featured a sliding glass door.
Both sections contained a variety of slot games for the players, with a lot of popular titles, styles and denominations.
There was no debate the smell of smoke was prominent outside of the sections.
I played a slot near the sections, but found myself developing a headache pretty quickly. As I moved further away from the sections, I didn’t notice the smoke smell and was able to feel more comfortable.
As I left the casino, I got a reminder of the smell though, as it again hit hard on my way back to the parking garage.
Hollywood Casino at Greektown indoor smoking area
Greektown was a different experience. The majority of the second floor allows smoking. So, upon entry through the parking garage, there really isn’t a lot of ways to avoid it.
Seeing ashtrays readily available at slot machines was a visual I hadn’t seen in a public setting in a long time. It even had a cigarette vending machine with five different brand offerings.
The smell of smoke was very prominent, and the air felt quite thick. There was a non-smoking section on the second floor, but it was an open-air space that was connected to the smoking area. It felt like an insincere offering.
The first floor is smoke-free, but the sections are still connected in the opening through an escalator. So, it’s not really preventing the smoke from making its way down. You really couldn’t escape it.
While the first floor and second floor each offer a wide array of slots and table games, Barstool Sportsbook is located on the second floor. So, if looking to wager on sports, you can’t avoid the smoking section.
Gun Lake Casino latest to bring back indoor smoking
Just this week, Gun Lake Casino announced it would be adding a small indoor smoking gaming area to its floor.
“With tremendous feedback from our guests and Team Members, we are now permitting indoor smoking in a specially designated gaming area,” the tweet read. “This space is the former non-smoking slot room next to the high-limit room. Please note that all other indoor spaces will remain non-smoking.”
It joins MGM Grand Detroit and Hollywood Casino at Greektown as other Michigan retail casinos with indoor smoking areas on their gaming floors.
Little River Casino also has a smoking room indoors near the Event Center, but spaced away from the main gaming floor.
What players are saying about indoor smoking sections at Michigan casinos
Gun Lake’s latest announcement started a lot of debate over indoor smoking’s return for retail players.
On Michigan’s vocal “What Happens at the Casino Stays at the Casino” Facebook group, there are a lot of strong opinions.
There were those who agreed with the move:
“Every casino should have its own spot. Any casino that throws their people outside to the cold ain’t cool. Everyone outside looks tacky . I’m glad Gun Lake gave the smokers a little space.”
“I am a smoker and appreciate giving us smokers a place to play. People are always complaining but the alcohol is just as bad and that’s allowed everywhere so Thank You Gun Lake!!!”
Those against it have obvious complaints:
“I WISH smoking would Never come back to any casinos! Go outside if you want to smoke! Much cleaner inside & easy to breathe!!”
“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!!”
“I have been to one of the casinos that has had smoking for awhile – it was not pleasant after being without it. Also have not been back there – for that reason.”
ASHRAE, CDC say casinos can’t prevent second-hand smoke damage
The state passed the Michigan’s Smoke-Free Indoor Air Law back in May of 2010, banning smoking in most public places.
That didn’t apply to casinos, but the pandemic forced them to operate as smoke-free spaces upon reopening.
Many casinos throughout the country also upgraded their filtration systems during the pandemic.
Even with sealed-off indoor smoking sections, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) state that no level of filtration upgrades will reduce second-hand smoke.
“There is currently no available or reasonably anticipated ventilation or air cleaning system that can adequately control and significantly reduce the health risks of [secondhand smoke] to an acceptable level.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Prohibiting smoking in all indoor areas is the only effective way to fully eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke.”
Along with concerns for patrons, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights have voiced their concern for casino employees now that indoor smoking has been returning.
“The engineers who know these filtration and ventilation systems best say they do not protect casino employees and guests from the well-established harms of secondhand smoke exposure,” said Cynthia Hallett, president and CEO of the ANR. “Industry claims suggesting otherwise should be scrutinized closely, and gaming companies should never be mistaken for public health or engineering experts.”
MGM Grand Detroit employees are still required to wear masks dating back to the pandemic, but some indicated to me that they also help with the second-hand smoke.
At Greektown, a high number of patrons were wearing masks, with some associating that with the smoking as opposed to COVID concerns.