Smokers Head to Tribal Casinos

By Beacon Staff

CROW AGENCY – Some smokers are escaping the statewide ban on lighting up indoors by taking their cigarettes and money to tribal casinos.

“You’d go crazy playing these machines if you couldn’t smoke,” said Mike Little Nest. “If I’m gambling, I’m smoking. It’s easier on the nerves.”

Casinos on reservations are exempt from a statewide smoking ban that took effect Oct. 1

“Reservations are sovereign governments,” said Linda Lee, a supervisor with the state Tobacco Use Prevention Program. “Unless they pass their own similar smoke-free laws, native-owned casinos on reservations have the choice whether to be smoke-free.”

The Little Bighorn Casino and the Charging Horse Casino in Lame Deer, on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, have opted to remain smoking establishments.

“Gambling and smoking go hand in hand,” said Wales Bull Tail, manager of the Little Bighorn. “Gambling without smoking is like trying to eat meat without salt.

The Crow Agency casino says it picked up after the smoking ban went into effect. The casino is running television commercials touting its smoking status.

“We get calls from people from out of town,” said Kathy Birdinground, the casino’s marketing director. “They say, ‘Well, maybe we’ll stop down there.’ ”

Birdinground said people don’t seem to mind that alcohol is not served in the casino. Both the Crow and Northern Cheyenne reservations are dry, meaning alcohol cannot be sold there.

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