Researchers believe smoke-free policy could lead to more customers at Northwoods casino Submitted: 07/30/2014
LAC DU FLAMBEAU - More than two-thirds of visitors to the Lake of the Torches Casino say smoking bothers them. That's just one of the results from the first-of-its-kind study on attitudes towards smoking in casinos. The Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council and the casino in Lac du Flambeau joined together to survey more than 950 people in 2011.

"In other research that has taken place, the researchers just sort of send out surveys randomly to random people in the community and then they have to ask them, 'Do you go to the casino? Do you smoke? Do you smoke at the casino?' And this, we actually ask the patrons, themselves. Yeah, you can't get data better than that," said Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council Epidemiologist Isaiah Brokenleg. Fifty-four percent of those surveyed said they would be more or much more likely to come to the casino if it went smoke-free. About 18% said they would be less or much less likely to come to the casino. People who said they were more likely to come to the casino if it went smoke-free belong to lower tiers of the Players Club, meaning they don't gamble as much. Researchers believe that shows business would improve if the casino was smoke-free. But that doesn't mean changes will come soon. Researchers say the high rate of smoking among Native Americans, close to 50% in this region, may make it difficult for casinos to put smoking bans in place. "American Indians have a really complicated relationship with tobacco. They use traditional tobacco for ceremonies and spiritual purposes but then also, they smoke at rates in this region, almost 50%. So that's over three times what the rest of the folks in Wisconsin smoke at," explained Brokenleg. "For some tribes, they use tobacco sales to generate revenue, so there's this really complicated thing going on with tobacco." Only six of the 237 tribes who run casinos around the country have voluntarily banned smoking in the casinos. The Lac du Flambeau Tribal government is reviewing the study. The research article will appear in the "American Journal of Preventative Medicine" in September.

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