Mississippi’s Only Smoke-Free Casino Holding SteadyBy Rhonda Miller | Published 13 Oct 2011 11:02pm |
It’s been four months since a Biloxi casino took a big chance and decided to go smoke-free. MPB’s Rhonda Miller stopped by to see what’s been lost and what’s been gained.
After 11 years as a bartender at the Palace Casino, Espn Real says one thing has changed since it became smoke-free.
"Going home and not smelling like smoke." Real says he and his wife both work at the casino and neither of them smoke. "Even the kids go, 'Daddy and Mommy, you don’t smell like smoke anymore.' It’s been really nice. It’s been a great experience."
The Palace tends to have very little turnover in staff and General Manager Keith Crosby says decisions like going smoke-free take that into account.
"It’s very good for our associates. Ultimately, they’re healthier, which is beneficial to the business," Crosby says. "And eight out of 10 of our guests would prefer it."
The Palace has about 24,000 guests a week and Crosby says the casino did the math before deciding to eliminate smoking.
"We estimated that would cost us about two-out-of-10 of our guests, and it did, maybe slightly more than that," Crosby says. "In the time that’s passed since then, our guest numbers have returned to levels that they were at prior to going to this. Unfortunately, we’ve lost some good friends and customers and we’ve met some new friends and customers as a result."
One of the more dedicated customers is Sandra Reid of Ocean Springs, who came before the change, but likes it better now.
"Absolutely. That’s one of the reasons that I’m here," Reid says. "This is great. And a lot of people are talking about it, because it’s smoke-free."
According to Jay McDaniel, deputy director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission, the Palace is the only one of 30 state-regulated casinos that’s smoke-free.
"I believe it’s a good thing to have that other option out there. The fact that they’re doing this, it gives us something to look at," says McDaniel.
Other casinos in the state do have non-smoking areas. And even with its bold advertising as a smoke-free casino, the Palace does have a smoking lounge and an outdoor area for those who want to light up.
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