Palace officials: No butts about it, we are now smoke free

The Palace Casino's smoking lounge
The Palace Casino's smoking lounge

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A new era in gaming began Tuesday on the Point in Biloxi. Following a two week long shutdown and a $50 million upgrade, the Palace Casino opened its doors as a smoke-free facility.

Guests waited in line by the hundreds. First up was Bill Cook who said the new smoke-free policy is fine with him.

"I quit smoking about 20 years ago, so it works great for me," Cook said.

Rocky Martin is 82 and has been smoking since he was 13. He doesn't plan to come back to the Palace.

"If going to spend my money to enjoy myself and I can't smoke, I don't have to participate," Martin said. "I can go elsewhere."

The only place people can light up is in the smoking lounge. But in the first hour, it was nearly empty, and cigarette butts were hard to spot.

In the sports lounge, ashtrays have been replaced with small non-smoking signs, a reminder about the new policy.

Many people, like Nan Harrison, are praising the decision to go smoke free.

"I think it's wonderful. I wish more of them would do this," Harrison said, "Because when people you play with smoke and you leave for home, your clothes smell and you choke to death."

"I think it's a fantastic and I hope more casinos in Biloxi, and Mississippi in general will follow this same policy," Sam Bolden said.

Officials at the Palace Casino admit that going smoke free is a bold experiment.

"No doubt, folks will watch the experiment and consider the results," Palace Casino General Manager Keith Crosby said. "I don't know that it will compel anybody to change their direction, but we're certainly going to stick it out."

Tuesday's opening also marked the completion of the second phase of upgrades at the Palace.  Work on phase three began on Monday, and will include new entryways and refurbishing hotel rooms. That work should be finished by the end of August.

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