PORTSMOUTH, Va. — UPDATE: Rivers Casino Portsmouth officially updated its smoking policy, giving the following statement on Monday:
"In response to feedback from guests and the community, effective immediately Rivers Casino Portsmouth has modified our smoking policy.
"Approximately half of the gaming floor will now be designated as nonsmoking, including both slots and table games. Signage has been posted to identify smoking and nonsmoking areas. Cigars and vaping are strictly prohibited. As a reminder, smoking marijuana in public is illegal in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
"The overall facility is 80% nonsmoking, including all restaurants, BetRivers Sportsbook, The Sound Bar, Topgolf, The Event Center, and the poker room."
Players at the new Rivers Casino Portsmouth are seeing signs telling them the left side of the gaming floor is now a "non-smoking section."
Days after the grand opening, cousins Selby Benton and Candace Mclellan stepped inside the brand-new facility on Victory Boulevard for the first time.
"We had so much fun," said Benton.
Mclellan agreed, voicing excitement for the opportunities a casino in Portsmouth will bring.
The two told 13News Now they enjoyed their experience, while aware of some complaints in the community over the smell of smoke inside.
Some patron reviews on Google cited that particular reason for notching down their score.
"What everybody was complaining about a lot, we didn't feel that," said Mclellan. "We can't compare it to before, but I feel like we smelled a little smoke on the nonsmoking side ... it wasn't anything that would deter us from coming back. We know this is a casino, we know people are going to smoke."
On Friday, an employee said new signs went up, indicating the left side of the gaming floor is a "non-smoking section." However, there is no wall separating the sides.
"Last time I checked, the smoke doesn't abide by signs, and so, therefore, the entire place is still a smoking gaming floor," said Chris Moyer, an advocate with Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights.
Prior to opening, Rivers Casino Portsmouth General Manager Roy Corby touted "state-of-the-art" ventilation systems to 13News Now.
However, advocates, such as Moyer said that's not good enough. He and other supporters of smoke-free casinos told 13News Now they worry about the employees' health.
"If you're not going to believe us on doing the right thing for your employees' health, then do the right thing because it's actually the best business move," Moyer said.
"Anyone who works at a table has to deal with smoke being blown in their face," said Pete Naccarelli with Casino Employees Against Smoking's Effects. "It's relentless. You're within a foot of a patron who's smoking. You can't turn your head. You have upwards of a $1,000,000 in front of you at any given time."
Naccarelli told 13News Now he works in table games at an Atlantic City, New Jersey casino. He argued modern-day awareness of the dangers of second-hand smoke should influence executives' decisions.
"I'm afraid to look at what my lungs look like or what's going on in my body because I want to be there for my kids, 9 and 15 [years old]. I'm scared," said Naccarelli.
Both Naccarelli and Moyer also expressed concerns about foreseen lack of regulation, regarding the new nonsmoking section at Rivers Casino Portsmouth.
A spokesperson for Rivers Casino Portsmouth issued 13News Now a statement earlier this week, saying the building has designated non-smoking areas throughout, like the restaurant, sportsbook and poker room.
“Rivers Casino Portsmouth has designated non-smoking areas throughout the facility, including all restaurants, BetRivers Sportsbook, The Sound Bar, Topgolf, and the poker room.
We’re grateful for the community’s support of our grand opening and always welcome feedback from our guests.”
On Friday, 13News Now reached out again, asking about the "no smoking" signs, but they would not comment.
"We do not have any additional information to provide at this time," the spokesperson wrote.