Airing it out: The healthy shift at Park MGM is all about ‘options’

Park MGM

MGM Resorts officials had been contemplating a completely nonsmoking casino resort back when the company began to renovate and rebrand the Monte Carlo into Park MGM four years ago. The south-Strip property reopened this week for the first time since the mid-March coronavirus shutdown, becoming the first major casino resort to go smoke-free, but don’t expect other Strip properties to follow suit.

“We saw the trending from consumers wanting an alternative experience that incorporated nonsmoking and definitely considered it for some time, specifically just for Park MGM,” said Anton Nikodemus, president of MGM Resorts’ Las Vegas portfolio, pointing out that the property’s renovated restaurants, guest rooms and meeting spaces were already designated nonsmoking. “For us, it became whether we wanted to provide a casino experience that was nonsmoking for that customer, and as we relaunched the property, we elected at that point not to do it. But we started to reconsider when we shut down [in March], because we felt there was an increasing desire from our customers for that type of experience.”

Pandemic conditions have increased demand for outdoor activities, along with nonsmoking options, since the Strip began to reopen in June, and Park MGM was already queued up for the transition. All it had to do was make the shift in the casino, replacing all carpeting and redoing wall coverings and ceiling treatments throughout the gaming floor. The layout of table games and slot machines has been altered to create more space and “make it a little brighter and fresher,” Nikodemus said.

Health officials and Las Vegas observers have praised the move at Park MGM. JoAnna Strother of the American Lung Association told the Las Vegas Sun last week that the reopening is “a landmark for the Strip,” a significant development that will protect Las Vegas visitors and casino employees.

Other megaresorts could eventually follow in Park MGM’s footsteps, but MGM Resorts isn’t planning on turning any of its other Las Vegas properties into nonsmoking experiences.

“No, I don’t think so,” Nikodemus said. “We are looking at it from the consumer experience and what they desire, and there is still a tremendous amount of consumers who want that smoking option with their casino experience. We are fortunate to have a large portfolio [on the Strip] and create this designation of a singular property that meets those expectations, but anything more than that could exceed the amount of customers looking for that. It’s really about options.”

Perhaps more significant is the fact that Park MGM is the final MGM Resorts property to reopen, not only in Las Vegas but across the country.

“It’s bittersweet,” Nikodemus said. “We still have a lot of employees out of work. Although we have brought back many, until we are able to make our way through this where we are still not at 100 percent of what our capacity was pre-COVID, we have to stay focused on business levels and exceeding customer expectations.

“There is a sense of relief knowing all our properties will be open, but until we get back to those levels, I don’t think we’re going to be fully content.”

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