Gambling with our health: The possibility of smokeless casinos

By KBJR News 1

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July 30, 2014 Updated Aug 1, 2014 at 7:03 PM CST

Lac du Flambeau, WI (NNCNOW.com) --- A smoke–free policy would not reduce tribal casino patronage, but actually increase it, according to a survey conducted by the Great Lakes Inter–Tribal Council (GLITC) of Wisconsin.

The council partnered with the Lac du Flambeau Band’s casino in Wisconsin on the survey. The casino is called the Lake of the Torches Resort Casino.

This is the first time a public health entity and a casino have partnered to assess casino patron attitudes regarding tobacco use. A survey was administered from April to August 2011 to a proportional stratified random sample of about 1,000 members of the casino players club.

The survey found that 54% of respondents said they would go to the casino more or much more often if it were smoke-free. About 20% responded that they were likely to visit less. The survey found that over 75% of casino patrons are non–smokers.

Isaiah Brokenleg with GLITC believes Midwest tribes could be the leaders in choosing to turn their casinos smokeless – he hopes in the near future, and says these findings will give them the evidence to do so.

"I think casinos are really afraid of losing revenue, and if you remember when the smoke free law for Minnesota was about to be passed, all the bars and restaurants were freaking out thinking the sky was gonna fall. Those businesses actually made more money," Brokenleg said.

GLITC did not originally intend to publish the study; at first it was going to be a report to work on controlling tobacco locally. However, GLITC was encouraged to publish so that other tribes and academia could benefit from the findings.

Brokenleg explains that it took time to publish the study because they had to find academic partners to assist them in the process, get permission to publish, write the manuscript, submit it for publication, make changes the reviewers recommended, resubmit with the changes, etc...

When casinos were included in the smoke free law in January 2008 in Colorado, there was a 20% drop in ambulance calls to casinos, a UCSF study supported by the National Cancer Institute found.

GLITC says it is willing to help tribes that would like to become smoke–free. Tribal sovereignty exempts tribal casinos from statewide smoking bans.

Many casinos have established smoke free areas, including the Black Bear Casino in Carlton, Minn.

For more information on this survey, please click here, or contact Isaiah Brokenleg at IBrokenleg@glitc.org or (715) 588-1015.

Ramona Marozas
Rmarozas@kbjr.com
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