A few months ago, Las Vegas-style casino operators in Ohio pilfered a brilliant idea from their neighboring racinos. They requested approval from the state to install outdoor slot machines in an effort to better accommodate their smoking patrons. The Ohio Casino Control Commission approved the request on Wednesday, and Toledo’s Hollywood Casino immediately got to work installing the new devices.
Visitors of the casino will now have the option of playing their favorite slot machines indoors, in a clean air, smoke-free environment, or stepping out onto one of two patios, where a total of 34 new slots have been mounted. On one side of the casino’s second floor is a larger patio with 22 outdoor slot machines. The other side offers a smaller smoking deck equipped with 12 new slots.
A ban on indoor smoking in public areas was first instated in 2006 by ORC 3794, which states:
|3794.02 Smoking prohibitions.
(A) No proprietor of a public place or place of employment, except as permitted in section 3794.03 of this chapter, shall permit smoking in the public place or place of employment or in the areas directly or indirectly under the control of the proprietor immediately adjacent to locations of ingress or egress to the public place or place of employment.
Various exemptions are applied, but Las Vegas-style casinos weren’t approved in Ohio until 2009, therefore did not make the minutiae of the smoking ban upon execution; nor did the owners of the casinos seek exemption from the prohibition during negotiations. However, racinos and casinos found a rather wide loophole in the definitions of the law that permits smoking in a public place on an “outdoor patio”.
(I) “Outdoor patio” means an area that is either: enclosed by a roof or other overhead covering and walls or side coverings on not more than two sides; or has no roof or other overhead covering regardless of the number of walls or other side coverings.
To accommodate the classification of an outdoor patio, Penn National Gaming Inc., owner of Hollywood Casino in Toledo, elevated the existing metal screens encompassing the current smoking decks and integrated heating elements into the ceiling. Now those who enjoy puffing on a cigarette while playing slot machines will be able to do so all year round; weather permitting, of course. A retractable awing was integrated to protect the slots during inclement weather.
Penn National Gaming’s Hollywood Casino in Columbus received similar approval on Wednesday, turning its single smoking deck into a gaming area equipped with 21 slot machines.
Rock Ohio Caesars, a joint venture between Caesars Entertainment and Rock Gaming, applied for the same approval at its dual Horseshoe Casino locations in Cincinnati and Cleveland. Horse Casino Cincinnati was approved, and is building a brand new (and considerably larger) outdoor patio for smokers that will be able to house 150 slot machines.
The Horseshoe Casino in Cleveland was denied its application for outdoor gaming. Located on Public Square in the former Higbee’s Department Store, commission spokeswoman Jessica Franks explained that “Cleveland is not able to do it because of the Higbee building’s structure. There’s no room for them to put a patio or outdoor area there.” According to OCCC Executive Director Matt Schuler, a second phase proposal could implement outdoor gaming at the Cleveland casino down the road.