No Smoking Allowed: Michigan Casinos Temporarily Ban Lighting Up

The plan is for Michigan casinos to reopen by July 4, as the state enters Phase 5. In order to do that, however, casinos will have to follow a unique list of rules. From smoking bans to visitor restrictions, state officials are going beyond what’s worked in Nevada and Colorado. For that, you can blame COVID-19.

Michigan reported 67,545 cases as of June 19, with 6,087 deaths. The good news is that the number of new cases is dropping. During May, Michigan saw between 270 to 350 new cases reported each day. That’s dropped to between 180 to 225, making health officials confident businesses can reopen. 

That’s already happened with most companies across the state. The state’s 24 tribal casinos are also open for business. Other casinos, however, remained closed in June as lawmakers crafted some strict guidelines. The goal is to make sure once they’re open, the casinos remain that way. The state’s economy needs it. Data from the Michigan Gaming Control Board shows there’s been a 51 percent drop in wagering taxes this year, compared to 2019.

Even if all casinos open on schedule in July, the state’s on track to receive $112 million less than originally projected for this fiscal year. It’s hard enough to fund everything during a pandemic. Making budget cuts during a pandemic makes things worse. But while other states sign off on 50 percent capacity, Michigan’s rules are significantly stricter. 

No More Smoking In Casinos

Once casinos reopen, gamers won’t be able to smoke. That means no cigars or cigarettes. It also means no vaping.  Simply put, smoking is banned until further notice. 

“The smoking ban was included because someone who smokes would need to remove his or her mask,” said Mary Kay Bean, communications specialist with the Michigan Gaming Control Board. 

The rules require gamblers to wear a mask at all times in the casino unless they’re eating or drinking. As a result, most actions that require a person to take that mask off have been put on hold. The masks are required because they block 95 percent of even very small particles when someone inhales.

Now for any gamers who like to smoke, that doesn’t mean you have to cut it completely. The state rules allow you to smoke outside in designated areas. There appears to be some confusion, however, with the casinos themselves. In statements released to media, MGM Grand Detroit claimed the state rules allowed for a designated inside area for smoking. In their interpretation, it just can’t be on the casino floor. The Gaming Control Board says that’s not the case, however. 

Casinos Want To Start Slowly

There will be several other changes when the doors reopen. First, don’t expect any valet service, coat checks, or self-serve buffets. Also, all poker rooms will be closed until further notice. This is partly why the casinos haven’t reopened, as companies have to develop plans and submit them to the gaming board for approval.

For example, casinos can operate card games like blackjack, but they have to follow social distancing guidelines. That means staying six feet apart. There’s no specific order on how that’ll happen, so it’s up to each company to come up with a way to make it work. 

The final rule is one gaming officials say the casinos came up with. In other states, casinos can have up to 50 percent of capacity as long as they’re not in a high-risk area. That’s not the case in Michigan. Under the gaming board guidelines, casinos have to limit the total number of guests to 15 percent of their legal capacity. 

“The casinos suggested beginning at 15 percent capacity – to start slowly –but the capacity limit can change over time,” Bean said. 

Michigan Casino Review Bank couldn’t confirm with any of the three Detroit casinos if they did actually propose starting small.

About the Author

Brian Carlton

Brian Carlton is an award-winning journalist who has covered casinos, the gaming, and finance industries for more than a decade. His work has been published by the BBC and a variety of newspapers across the U.S. He currently writes for Colorado Sharp and