PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — While many complaints about smoking have rolled in after the opening of the new Rivers Casino Portsmouth, an industry expert says the casino may see that the revenue benefits outweigh the backlash, at least for a while.

Other casinos in the region such as Dover Downs in Delaware and all of Maryland’s casinos are smoke-free, but Portsmouth’s casino has opted to allow smoking in the main casino area. Other parts of the facility such as restaurants, the sports book room, dedicated poker room and more are non-smoking.

This comes after a report last year from Las Vegas-based C3 Gaming said that banning smoking in casinos is no longer impacting revenues overall like once thought. There are exceptions though, with the study citing reported revenue drops in Delaware, Colorado, New Orleans and other locations.

“That’s something that we have seen, is that we’re not seeing entire markets go non-smoking. So it does allow a competitive advantage for some properties to still have that as an amenity for their guests, and we’re seeing that all over the country,” says Amanda Belarmino, an assistant professor of hospitality at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who has more than 20 years of management experience at casinos, hotels and restaurants. “I think it’s less dependent upon the operator themselves and more dependent on the market they’re in.”

Belarmino says she thinks in about 10 to 15 years, smoking will be gone industry-wide due to changing demographics and trends away from smoking. But at the moment, higher spenders at casinos are older, and data shows those who still smoke tend to be older adults.

“What most people would argue, that I know in the gaming business, is that especially if you have like a slot-based casino, that’s gonna be who you’re attracting,” Belarmino said. “That’s usually people over 50, they are going to be your high-end players, your most loyal players who usually have the time to visit the casino more often.”

Other demographic factors go into the decision, for example Belarmino says there are many international gamblers in Vegas from countries where smoking is prevalent, which factors into smoking being allowed most places in Sin City. On the other end, Vegas’ Park MGM notably went non-smoking in a push to attract younger crowds, bucking the overall trend.

Belarmino says for most casinos it’s about finding the right balance. BetRivers has boasted high-end filtration devices (which some labor groups and lawmakers representing workers at casinos such as BetRivers’ Pittsburgh location claim don’t do enough to stop second-hand smoke) and has highlighted those non-smoking areas for guests to enjoy instead.

Facts about Portsmouth’s casino

“So in making those decisions sometimes it has to be are we going to be alienating people, and when that happens are there ways you can accommodate them in another area,” Belarmino added.

Though she says ultimately guests and employees will let the casino know.

“If they’re seeing their employees and their customers don’t want it, or are not doing it, then it makes sense to go non-smoking.”

A social media post on Friday showed Portsmouth’s casino had blocked off part of its main casino area as non-smoking. We’ll let you know what permanent changes the casino may make.