Connecticut’s Tribal Casinos Stand against Indoor Smoking

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Connecticut is making headlines in the casino industry, not for a new game or a record jackpot, but for a breath of fresh air.

Two of its tribal resorts, Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, have taken a stand against indoor smoking, challenging the conventional wisdom of the casino industry.

Connecticut Casinos Prioritize Health Over Tradition

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, concerns arose that cigarette smoke could exacerbate the spread of the virus. In response, many establishments, including Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, suspended indoor smoking. Now, even as the pandemic wanes, land-based casinos in the state show no inclination to revert to their old smoking policies.

This decision isn't just a fleeting response to a global health crisis. The Mohegan Tribe and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, owners of the resorts, emphasize that the health of their community members is paramount.

Moreover, they've found that the absence of cigarette smoke hasn't hurt their financial performance. This challenges the narrative from other states and casino associations, which argue that banning smoking could hinder post-pandemic economic recovery.

Jason Guyot, Foxwoods’ president and chief executive, offers an economic perspective against indoor smoking. Pre-pandemic, cleaning staff would collect the equivalent of 200 packs of cigarette butts daily.

These butts, primarily made of plastic, pose an environmental concern. Jeff Hamilton, president and general manager at Mohegan Sun, echoes this sentiment. He highlights the positive feedback from both guests and employees who appreciate the cleaner and healthier environment.

Connecticut's Tribal Casinos Challenge the Norm

The decision to remain smoke-free isn't solely about economics or even guest experience. Tribal operators, including those in Connecticut, were hit hard by the pandemic. Their communities faced disproportionate impacts from COVID-19. This reality underscored the need for businesses serving these communities to prioritize not only responsible gambling, but issues connected to health and safety. For Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, this meant eliminating cigarette smoke from their casino floors.

While Connecticut's tribal resorts lead the way, the broader debate about indoor smoking in casinos rages on from Rhode Island to California. Many states, including New Jersey, grapple with the decision to ban or allow smoking on casino floors.

Related: Rhode Island casino smoking controversy.

Yet, Connecticut's story offers a different perspective, suggesting that a smoke-free environment might be both healthier and economically viable.

In the U.S., most states have indoor smoking bans but carve out exceptions for the gambling industry. The rationale for these exceptions often rests on shaky evidence suggesting that smoking is essential for casinos' financial success.

However, as Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods demonstrate, a casino's success doesn't hinge on its smoking policy. Instead, prioritizing health and offering a quality gaming experience can drive both guest satisfaction and economic prosperity.

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