Maryland’s commercial casinos posted an all-time best month in May and a solid performance in June while not allowing their guests to smoke on the gaming floors, stirring into action anti-smoking groups which propagate a ban on smoking nationwide.
Impressive Performance Streak with No Smoking
Lower than the historic all-time high of $172.4 million in May, the six commercial casinos in Maryland registered gross gaming revenue (GGR) of $161.5 million in June, 12.6% better than in June 2019. Five of them reporting higher revenues now than the comparable period two years ago prior to the coronavirus outbreak.
MGM National Harbor topped the list with a GGR of $63.7 million, a 12% increase compared to June 2019. Live! Casino & Hotel came second with $58.4 million, posting 19.4% growth. Ocean Downs, Rocky Gap and Hollywood Perryville each generated double-digit growth on pre-pandemic levels, with a combined total of $22.3 million. The only property which registered a decline is Horseshoe Baltimore, with $17 million in GGR, down 8.9% compared to June 2019.
Impressive results like these showed cracks in the common belief adopted by the casino industry that it is a necessity to allow gamblers to smoke. They fueled efforts of opponents to smoking led by the Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights (ANR), looking to grab the opportunity and pass legislation to ban casino smoking nationwide.
Of all 25 states that have commercial casinos in the US, only nine, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio and South Dakota, completely ban smoking while gambling. In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, there are allocations for indoor smoking on casino floors, 50% and 25%, respectively.
‘Make Smoke-Free Indoor Air the Permanent Policy’
Arguing that casino employees in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, unlike patrons, do not have an alternative to breathing second-hand smoke, ANR president Cynthia Hallett called on casinos “to put their employees first and make smoke-free indoor air the permanent policy.”
Hallett’s stance was supported by an editorial in the largest circulation paper in New Jersey, The Star-Ledger, which called on lawmakers to fully ban smoking on casino floors. The media asked the Casino Association of New Jersey, which stated a complete ban would put the state at a competitive disadvantage, to explain how Q1 2021 generated double-digit growth over Q1 2019.
In Nevada, ANR is actively working to make casinos smoke-free, seeking the support of Major League Baseball (MLB) to help protect the health of casino employees and guests, while the Oakland A’s are scouting out Las Vegas.
“Major League Baseball has been really at the cutting edge in terms of asking for tobacco-free policies, encouraging players not to smoke for their own player health.”
Cynthia Hallett, President, ANR
Traditionally, Nevada considers smoking inside casinos the norm, but traditions started to change last fall after Park MGM introduced a smoke-free casino policy. The newest casino resort in Las Vegas, Resorts World Las Vegas, allows smoking in the casino only.