Not much has gone right for the $2.4 billion Revel casino resort in Atlantic City, which is stumbling into bankruptcy just a year after it opened.
But the worst news might be this: the most prominent smoke-free casino in the US plans to reverse its anti-tobacco policy and permit gamblers to fill their lungs—and the air—with cigarette smoke, according to bankruptcy filings. Soon the Revel, too, will have that distinctive cold ashtray odor that permeates the casino industry, a stubborn holdout against the smoke-free revolution.
Last June, I talked to Revel CEO Kevin DeSanctis about the casino’s no-smoking policy. He said back then that smoke-free casinos are “the way of the future.”
Well, now DeSanctis is out of the job, and the Revel is blaming the smoke-free policy for contributing to disappointing revenue.
More smoke in the air is good for Atlantic City’s dry-cleaning industry, but Revel’s flip-flop does not bode well for Massachusetts, where casinos by law will be smoke-free. When the Bay State’s clean-air gambling palaces open in the next few years, customers will still have the option of driving out-of-state to casinos that permit smoking. Local gamblers already know the way to Foxwoods.
“It will be an interesting experiment to see whether people will drive an extra two hours to smoke,” DeSanctis told me last year.
So what happens if gambling revenue in Massachusetts doesn’t live up to expectations?
The smoking-ban would be an easy scapegoat.
It’s not hard to imagine casino companies pressuring Massachusetts lawmakers for relief, and threatening to cut jobs if they don’t get it.