Bristol, TN

Smoking Issues Arise at Virginia's First Casino - Surprised Patrons Voice Opinion

John M. Dabbs
Press at Bristol CasinoJohn Dabbs/Photographer

A surprise came to mind this past weekend when the first patrons enter the casino in Bristol for its opening weekend as the temporary facility. Social media complaints about smoking and the amount of smoke in the facility were present following the opening. Many patrons were not prepared for smoking within the gaming area.

On Facebook, Todd Arrants writes "Casino is awesome! So glad we have such a nice venue in Bristol. Better hope you win a new set of lungs…shewwww it’s SMOKEY..." There are many less polite statements on the web. Expectations have changed.

As Virginia's first casino, there are bound to be some adjustments to reality and expectations. Should the problem become problematic, it could be addressed by the Virginia legislature or Bristol government with new policies. Hotels and restaurants have different regulations from state to state where smoking is concerned.
Last-minute prep at Bristol Casino July 8John Dabbs/Photographer

Updates and changes

Even as the finishing touches were being completed at the Bristol Casino last week, President Allie Evangelista and Hard Rock C.O.O. Jon Lucas emphasized that each facility they open and operate is unique due to the local and state smoking regulations, which they follow. Lucas said that as a temporary casino, changes would be made as they are deemed necessary when the Hard Rock facility is prepared to be fully operational.

Many compare the Bristol Casino to Harrah's Cherokee Casino, yet many forget that even Cherokee Casino was a smoking facility until recently. Before the pandemic shuttered the casino in Cherokee, North Carolina in March of 2020, Harrah’s casinos in Cherokee and Murphy allowed smoking inside. When the casinos re-opened, a temporary smoking ban was put in place for COVID-19 mitigation. The Tribal Council voted later to make the smoking ban become permanent.

Smoke-Free gaming
Casino officials highlight the smoke-free gaming area in Bristol CasinoJohn Dabbs/Photographer

The Bristol Casino does have a smoke-free gaming area, complete with its own cashier, three table games, and electronic/slot machine games. The area can be accessed from the restaurant side from an entrance near Hard Rock Sportsbook, or through the main gaming entrance, and making an immediate left into the area.

"We have had great feedback on our non-smoking area that offers the most popular slot themes as well as tables games and a dedicated cashier. Guests can enter this area without going onto the casino floor.  We just opened our doors two days ago and the feedback from the guests has been overwhelmingly positive." - Marc DeLeo, Vice President of Marketing, Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Bristol 

Reaching out to the Bristol Casino and Hard Rock International for comment, Marc DeLeo, VP of Marketing for Bristol Casino, says they've had great feedback on the non-smoking area, and most comments have been very positive.

Second-hand smoke

A report from Public Health Reports (2017) states that 75% of regular casino-goers want smoke-free casinos. An opinion piece in the Nevada Independent last month by Michael Schaus said "...clearing the air of tobacco smoke would be bad for business — cigarettes and profits being deeply intertwined..."

The gaming industry will do what is required of them by state or local regulations unless doing more becomes more profitable for them - meaning their customers want it.

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An outdoor enthusiast with a passion for travel and adventure. John is a professional consultant and photojournalist.

Bristol, TN

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