Starting next weekend, non-smoking visitors to the Mazatzal Casino will be able to rake in their winnings or dole out their losings in a tobacco-free environment.
Casino officials have added a temporary 2,000-square-foot structure, that can house up to 110 slot machines, to the main building, said Marc B. Kaplan, the casino's director of marketing.
Upon next weekend's opening the exact day has not yet been determined the room will house 70 brand new slot machines.
The official grand opening of the smoke-free slot area is scheduled for Memorial Day, Monday, May 28.
"One of the first things (casino CEO) Jim Gannarelli heard when he came here a year ago from casino visitors was their desire for a nonsmoking area," Kaplan said. "Even though Payson is above average in its number of smokers, we feel that the nonsmoking slot room will be very well-received."
It also will be the largest of only two slot rooms in the entire state with a zero-tobacco tolerance, Kaplan added.
Construction on the addition at the northeast corner of the casino started in mid-February. Although the fire-retardant structure has a life span of 20 years, it will be replaced much sooner than that when the Tonto Apache Tribe, which owns the casino, realizes its plan to permanently expand the facility.
"The new nonsmoking room is just the start of dramatic changes at Mazatzal," Gannarelli said. "In the months to come, you'll see more cosmetic changes through the entire casino."
The biggest changes, Gannarelli predicted, will take place if the negotiations between the tribe and the state allow Arizona's Indian-owned casinos to provide house-banked blackjack and other Las Vegas table games.
"Mazatzal's first step in preparation for these games is the addition of our new nonsmoking room," Gannarelli said. "This is a very exciting time for the Tonto Apache Tribe, the casino employees, and all the people who have supported us since 1995."