Temporary Smoking Ban At Detroit Casinos Could Linger

Posted on June 12, 2020 - Last Updated on June 11, 2020

While there will be a temporary ban on smoking from Detroit casino floors upon reopening, one regulator wants smokers outside for good.

Detroit’s three commercial casinos have been closed since March 16 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. No reopening dates are set; however, six more Michigan tribal casinos reopened today.

When they do reopen — perhaps before the Fourth of July — smoking will be temporarily banned on their casino floors, which is part of the guidelines issued Monday by the Michigan Gaming Control Board.

However, board member Barbara Smith questions whether smoking should be allowed at Greektown Casino-Hotel, MGM Grand Detroit and MotorCity Casino down the line.

“It would be a great opportunity to require that it be outdoors,” Smith said at Monday’s meeting.

Smith raised her issue with smoking on Detroit’s casino floors after the reopening guidelines passed. Chairman Robert Anthony suggested the board re-examine the issue at the August meeting.

Other reopening guidelines

Upon detailing the reopening guidelines before Monday’s vote, MGCB Executive Director Richard Kalm said the board would re-evaluate the provisions upon reopening. Kalm said the state-regulated Detroit casinos reopening plans already adhere to the board’s guidelines.

Other parameters passed by the board include:

  • Limit of 15% the legal capacity at each casino.
  • Limited entrance points with temperature checks.
  • No poker rooms.
  • Heightened cleaning protocols.
  • Social distancing requirements.

The guidelines do not require customers to wear masks.

MGM Grand will allow smoking inside, off casino floor

After Smith raised the issue, MGM Grand Detroit President and COO David Tsai explained how his facility plans to handle smoking.

Likely referring to the former V Nightclub, Tsai said customers could smoke in a large indoor space that is separated from the casino floor by doors.

Tsai said the air from the indoor space wouldn’t easily flow to the casino floor. It has a connected outdoor space.

“The reason for that is we don’t have a clear outdoor area where we can control access to the casino to allow them to smoke just because of the layout of our building,” Tsai said. “It has its own ventilation, and the air wouldn’t be circulated.

“But you would be technically indoors, physically separated from (the) casino floor.”

Smokers will socially distance in the indoor space, Tsai said, which has ceilings about 25- to 30-feet high.

John Drake, the general manager of Greektown, said his casino plans to have an outdoor space for smokers.

Bruce Dall, the president of MotorCity, did not detail his facility’s plans for smoking.

Michigan casinos among only indoor spots left to smoke

When Michigan banned smoking from bars and restaurants in 2010, the Detroit casinos were exempted, along with cigar bars and tobacco specialty retail stores.

Statewide, Michigan’s 23 tribal casinos usually allow smoking, though many currently have temporary bans in place.

FireKeepers Casino in Battle Creek has banned smoking inside. Customers have to leave the casino floor and re-enter through security, a process that includes a temperature check.

“That has actually gone much better than I had anticipated,” FireKeepers CEO Kathy George said Thursday in an Innovation Group webinar. “So, we’ll see how that continues to go.”

No smoking, for now

Several Michigan tribal casinos, including FireKeepers, require masks and are temporarily banning smoking indoors. They include:

  • Bay Mills Casino in Brimley
  • Three Four Winds Casinos in southwest Michigan
  • Island Resort and Casino in Harris
  • Leelanau Sands Casino in Peshawbestown
  • Odawa Casinos in Mackinaw City and Petoskey
  • Soaring Eagle Casino in Mount Pleasant
  • Saganing Eagles Landing Casino in Standish

These tribal casinos have designated indoor smoking areas:

  • Gun Lake Casino in Wayland
  • Five Kewadin Casinos locations in the Upper Peninsula, which opened today.
  • Little River Casino in Manistee
  • Northern Waters Casino Resort in Watersmeet
  • Turtle Creek Casino in Williamsburg

A pair of Ojibwa Casinos in Baraga and Marquette have not released their reopening guidelines; however, they plan to reopen next month. Kings Club Casino, which is 2 miles from Bay Mills in Brimley, is closed until further notice.

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Matt Schoch

A Michigan native, Matt has worked at newspapers in Michigan, Missouri and the Virgin Islands. A versatile sports reporter, Matt has covered sailing on the Great Lakes, cricket in the Caribbean, high school and pro playoffs, and the Olympics in Rio. He's also the host of the Locked On Pistons Podcast and producer of a documentary on Emoni Bates. A former blackjack dealer, Matt has studied the industry from all sides.

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