Gaming and Indoor Air: The Casino’s Answer to IAQ

When John Lezenby, facilities director for a major Atlantic City. N.J., casino, was planning the opening three years ago, he had all the best intentions. It was a risk, but the casino decided to be 100 percent smoke-free in the new gaming mecca.

Turns out that was a huge problem. It drove gamblers away.

“When the business didn’t do well, we opened up an area for smoking,” Lezenby recalls. “When we did that, we called in engineers to help us figure out a way to allow smoking but not have it smell like smoke on the casino floor.”

AtmosAir installments in various gaming facilities nearby were successful in significantly reducing smoke and smoke-related odors.

Lezenby was facing the same problem his colleagues face around the world. Today’s casinos need to balance the smoking gamblers’ expectations with an image that appeals to casual gamblers and people seeking new forms of entertainment. That is not an easy task.

“One often conjures a crowded, smoky environment, with a slight haze in the air, and leftover smoke-related odors on your clothes when you get home,” says Anthony Abate, vice president of operations for AtmosAir Solutions, of casinos. “That is not an environment where anyone with an interest in their well-being would be excited to go to.”

Dave Gildersleeve, corporate director of facilities for Station Casinos LLC, had an additional problem in many of his 19 buildings.

“Some of our properties have large convention and meeting spaces,’ Gildersleeve says. “There are groups that came in to the property that don’t smoke, and they were complaining about the tobacco levels.”

That is indeed a problem when, according to Beth Campbell, a principal at the global design firm Gensler, says that her casino customers increasingly ask how to bring in new patrons and keep them interested. Her answer is that casinos can’t just look good outside. They have to be good inside.

It is not simply a matter of image. According to the American Cancer Society, secondhand smoke has been linked to lung cancer and multiple respiratory diseases, but also heart disease and elongated illnesses for newborns.

No wonder Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) in casinos is becoming a hot topic and a big worry for Lezenby and many others.

Abate cites the comments of Richard Giovanetti, co-founder and president of Giovanetti- Shulman Associates, a leading casino engineering firm, who says casinos’ success rides on “positive patron experience.” That used to mean well-lit rooms, pleasant room temperatures, and the right amount of ambient noise.

“Nowadays, that is no longer enough,” Abate declares. “Today, smoking carries such a stigma, that the issue has to be addressed.”

Lezenby knew that.

“The engineers (who we’ve used several times in AC) recommended AtmosAir,” Lezenby said.

He was skeptical at first. He knew about systems that used carbon filters, which were hard to replace and, frankly, could not handle all of the smoke. What intrigued him in this case was that AtmosAir employs a whole different technology. Called Bi-Polar Ionization, it delivers ionized oxygen molecules into the air, which attach themselves to smoke particulates, among other airborne pollutants. The molecules agglomerate the smoke particles, causing them to become heavier and easier to filter.

“You did not smell smoke in the room and the system obviously worked,” Lezenby says about AtmosAir. “I’d walk the floor and ask patrons if they smelled smoke, and 99 percent of the time they did not.”

Gildersleeve did not even have to ask about air quality after Station Casinos installed AtmosAir in several of its facilities.

“Two days later,” Gildersleeve remembers, “we started getting comments from our team members and guests, asking ‘What did you guys do?’ It’s not the same as it used to be – the air is really clean!”

That translates to retaining clients.

“A particular group does four meetings a year that last 2 to 3 weeks with 300 to 400 people,” Gildersleeve shares. “By using AtmosAir, we’ve been able to retain this group and many others as well.”

But it doesn’t end there.

“It’s also a better environment for our team members to work in, which was part of the concern as well,” he adds.

Like all design, what actually matters is the user experience. For centuries, architects and engineers have considered the eyes, ears, even the sense of touch in designing for optimal

experience. Now they are learning that the experience goes even deeper, to the lungs, heart, and whole well-being of customers.

“If the casino design combines a great architectural and interior design approach with more efficient HVAC systems to offer a better IAQ and give their patrons a great experience,” Abate says, “they will be able to maintain a strong client base, which in turn helps the bottom line.”