- Park MGM was closed on March 16 as part of the statewide shutdown of the gaming industry in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- At least 6 major Las Vegas hotel/casino properties remain closed.
- The Park MGM will reopen as ‘The Strip’s first fully smoke-free casino resort.’
MGM Resorts International has announced that Park MGM along with the integrated boutique hotel NoMad wil reopen on Wednesday, September 30. The company had previously intimated an October reopening so the return of Park MGM is at least slightly ahead of schedule. With the reopening of the Yonkers, NY Empire City Casino on September 21 and the Four Seasons Las Vegas on September 25 the return of Park MGM/NoMad will mean that all of MGM Resorts’ US based properties are back in business.
Buried in what is otherwise a pro forma press release is some very interesting news:
Upon reopening, Park MGM/NoMad will be The Strip’s first fully smoke-free casino resort.
We’ll get back to that in a moment. Bill Hornbuckle, MGM Resorts CEO and President gave this statement about the return of the Park MGM and NoMad:
“Opening Park MGM and NoMad represent significant milestones, as they are the last of our properties to welcome back employees and guests alike. The last six months have presented extraordinary challenges and I could not be prouder of the MGM Resorts team for the tireless effort required to get us here. There is much work ahead as we remain focused on the health and safety of our employees and guests, but this is an important moment for us.”
As has become de rigueur in COVID-19 era Las Vegas, Park MGM and NoMad will operate with limited amenities at first:
Park MGM is The Strip’s newest destination resort, having been completed in late 2018, and has quickly become one of the city’s go-to places for entertainment, dining and more. While amenities will be limited initially at opening, guests will be able to enjoy many of the resort’s most popular outlets including the vibrant Italian marketplace, Eataly; Bavette’s Steakhouse; Primrose; and the pool. NoMad Las Vegas, the intimate luxury hotel-within-a-hotel at Park MGM, also will begin welcoming guests on September 30. Days and hours of operation at all venues will vary. For a full listing of amenities, please visit mgmresorts.com. Complimentary self-parking will be available for guests; valet parking will not be operational at this time.
I think you can count on ‘complimentary self parking’ to stay at all of the major Las Vegas resorts for the foreseeable future. This is a good way for the city to (hopefully) banish this mistake to ‘the ash heaps of history‘ and not have to lose face or admit the collective loss of sense that brought it about in the first place.
LAS VEGAS: NO LONGER ‘AMERICA’S ASHTRAY’?
At one not-so-long-ago point in history Las Vegas was not only ‘America’s ashtray’ but ‘America’s emphysematous lung’. When I first started spending time in Southern Nevada in the early 1990s you could literally smoke everywhere. You’d see people light up a ‘heater’ in the grocery store or even at the gym. I’m not a particularly religious type but an associate of mine swears that he once saw someone light up during a church service. Even if smoking was technically prohibited in some places smokers would light up with impunity and more often than not everyone would look the other way.
This continued even as a smoking backlash that often was hard to distinguish from an irrational anti-tobacco hysteria swept the country. For most of the 1990s, little changed in Las Vegas. The only acquisecense by the Southern Nevada casino industry to this ‘clean air’ movement was the Silver City Casino right across the street from what was then the Stardust Hotel and Casino. The Silver City opened in 1975 with all of the trappings of 1970s Las Vegas: 24 hour breakfast for 99 cents, $4 prime rib dinner and even an actual ‘Silver City Funbook’ which would be seen discarded all over sidewalks along for the also ubiquitous at the time handout ads for hookers.
Silver City is also the answer to a Las Vegas trivia question: it was the first casino to go smoke free way back in 1991. It was operated by Circus Circus at the time and long before smoke free gaming areas could be found on casino floors this was something of a visionary move. Bill Bennett, then-Circus Circus Enterprises CEO said that it was in response to customer requests. In a newspaper story archived on Google, Silver City VP Pat Patterson (no relation to the legendary pro wrestler/WWE executive by the same name) said:
More trivia: the Silver City was actually the second Nevada casino to try going ‘smoke free’. The first was the Ponderosa Casino in Reno but the experience was an abject failure. Today, the Ponderosa (sort of) lives on as arguably the most frightening skid row hotel in Washoe County. It worked only slightly better at the Silver City. The property closed in 1999 after it was purchased by San Francisco businessman Luke Brugnara. Brugnara would eventually be denied a gaming license by the Nevada Gaming Control Board. The smoking ban didn’t last that long, ending in 1994. At last check, there was still a Silver City sign standing on Convention Center Drive as you can see in this series of tweets from the essential Vintage Las Vegas account:
Then the Nevada Clean Indoor Clean Air Act came into being in 2006. This type of thing is often downright draconian but the Nevada version isn’t *too* overbearing and still allows smoking in places like the casino floor, cigar stores and places that should have smoking. On balance, this was a good thing for the city. It’s nice to be able to run into a casino for a few minutes and not have to go home and take a shower which was the case for decades.
Here’s what Anton Nikodemus, President of MGM Resorts’ Las Vegas Portfolio had to say about the move to smoke free:
“As we looked toward our reopening, we identified an opportunity to be responsive to recurring guest demand for a fully non-smoking casino resort on The Strip. With an expansive Las Vegas portfolio, MGM Resorts is able to offer an array of options for visitors, all within the MGM Resorts family.”
So we’ll see how things go at the Park MGM. This could be a short term acquiescence to the COVID-19 health and safety hysteria. It could be the start of a trend. As long as there are still places to go enjoy a fine cigar I could live with smoke free casinos.