I haven't stayed at the Peppermill, but have played there quite a bit. I personally think the casino is one of the better ones around. As for public places, it is Nevada. People smoke everywhere you go especially in any casino, but most people do it outside. It isn't like they are smoking in the hotel hallways and what not.
Remember for one negative review on Tripadvisor, there are probably a thousand people that had positive experiences.
Also, where on the coast will you be?? Yes, it can be quite a hall and there are definitely quicker ways to get to Reno depending on where you cut over. To be honest, 10 hours from the Southern part of Oregon seems to be a little high.